Publication in: Spring 2023 Issue

Judicial Selection: America’s Quandary
Kennedy Young
Political Science
Faculty Mentor(s):
Ashley Moraguez
Abstract / Summary:
There are 2 million people in the nation's prisons and jails—a 500),, increase over the last 40 years. Twelve percent of those people are serving life sentences, and four percent are serving life without parole despite a 56% drop-in crime rates from the 1990s. Sentencing law and policy changes are suggested as a reason for this increase. Additionally, despite federal sentencing guidelines, the duration or type of sentencing of a convicted criminal in the United States shows a lack of consistency across geography and can vary from state to state, and jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Many theories have been presented for this disparity of sentences and the degree of variation in sentencing across jurisdictions, including institutional racism, personal ideologies, and political pressure. Political pressures, including the desire to be reelected, stand out as one constant across the Country that may impact sentencing. This study looks at the likelihood that a State Supreme Court Judge will impart a more harsh sentence in life or death penalty cases if he is to face an election. The results suggest that elected judges do sentence more harshly, which has important implications for the dispensation of justice and institutional design in the US.
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