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The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy

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Volume 17, Issue 1 (Feb 2017)


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Volume 1 (2001)

Preferences Toward Leniency under Mandatory Criminal Sentencing Guidelines: Role-in-the-Offense Adjustments for Federal Drug Trafficking Defendants

Andrew W. Nutting
  • Corresponding author
  • Department of Economics, Bryn Mawr College, 101 N Merion Ave, Bryn Mawr, PA19010, USA
  • Email:
Published Online: 2017-02-07 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/bejeap-2016-0177


This paper tests whether judges and/or prosecutors manipulated mandatory federal sentencing guidelines to shorten prison sentences. It finds that, among drug traffickers convicted under the federal guidelines’ former mandatory sentencing system, those who faced harsher underlying charges were found to have played significantly lower-level roles in their conspiracies. This is consistent with guideline manipulation to help defendants facing longer sentences. Women received significantly larger role-in-the-offense reductions related to harsher underlying charges than men. Effects were insignificant if defendants were eligible for lower-cost alternative methods of sentence reduction, namely substantial assistance departures and safety-valve reductions from mandatory minimum sentences.

Keywords: criminal sentencing; mitigation; gender; drug trafficking


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About the article

Published Online: 2017-02-07

Citation Information: The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, ISSN (Online) 1935-1682, ISSN (Print) 2194-6108, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/bejeap-2016-0177. Export Citation

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