This study used hierarchical logistic modeling to examine the impact of legal, extralegal, and contextual variables on the decision to sentence felons to prison in a sample of large urban counties in 1996. None of the four contextual (county-level) variablesâ€”the level of crime, unemployment rate, racial composition, and regionâ€”increased the likelihood of a prison sentence, but 10 case-level factors, both legal and extralegal, and several macro-micro interaction terms were influential. These results demonstrate the importance of considering smaller geographic units (i.e., counties instead of states) and controlling for case-level factors in research on interjurisdictional differences in prison use.
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- contextual factors
- county sentencing variations
- hierarchical modeling
- prison sentences