JSP Scope

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Ashley Rubin wins LSA Best Grad Paper Prize

Ashley Rubin's paper, "Race, Ethnicity, and Nativity at Eastern State Penitentiary: A Study of the Variation in Sentence Length, 1829-1871," has been selected by the Law and Society Association to receive the 2010 prize for best graduate student paper next month in Chicago. Congratulations to Ashley and to Malcolm Feeley for nominating the paper. The abstract follows:

Multiple theories have been generated and tested to explain the presence or absence of sentencing disparities at all levels of the criminal justice system. Yet these theories have been derived from and explain data coming primarily from the last fifty or so years. Consequently, little is known about the longevity of the contemporary sentencing literature’s explanatory power beyond this period. This project tests the leading theories in the literature by examining the presence of disparities in and influences on prison sentence length in nineteenth-century Pennsylvania. The basic hypotheses explaining contemporary sentencing disparities, including the various group threat theories, court community perspective, and focal concerns, are tested on data for over 6,000 inmates sentenced to Pennsylvania’s Eastern State Penitentiary between 1829 and 1871. This study finds that several contemporary theories have explanatory power for the nineteenth century, suggesting that the social dynamics and decision-making practices that influence sentencing outcomes remain relatively consistent over time.