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Criminal sentencing in 19th-century Pennsylvania

Howard Bodenhorn ()

Explorations in Economic History, 2009, vol. 46, issue 3, 287-298

Abstract: How law is interpreted and enforced at a particular historical moment reflects contemporary social concerns, attitudes and prejudices. This paper investigates the nature of criminal sentencing in 19th-century Pennsylvania. It finds that juries systematically departed from presumptive sentences based on extralegal factors, such age, sex, nativity and occupation. Older criminals and convicts with higher status preconviction occupations received longer sentences; women and ethnic minorities received shorter sentences. Unlike 20th-century courts, 19th-century courts did not impose longer sentences on black criminals.

Keywords: Economics; of; crime; Criminal; sentencing; Racial; disparities; Ethnic; disparities (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2009
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Handle: RePEc:eee:exehis:v:46:y:2009:i:3:p:287-298