Sentencing Outcomes in 28 Felony Courts, 1985 [United States] (ICPSR 8708)

Principal Investigator(s): Cunniff, Mark A.


The purposes of this study are to describe sentencing outcomes in felony courts for selected serious offenses--homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, and drug trafficking--and to establish a statistical series on sentencing outcomes in felony courts throughout the United States. The jurisdictions consist of cities and counties with an average population of 1.1 million. Among the jurisdictions, the sentencing schemes available varied, with both determinate and indeterminate sentencing practices in operation. The study distinguishes between core informational items such as criminal charges, type of sentence imposed and terms of the prison sentence, and optional items such as characteristics of the offense and the defendant, and how the case was processed.

Access Notes

  • The public-use data files in this collection are available for access by the general public. Access does not require affiliation with an ICPSR member institution.


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Study Description


Cunniff, Mark A. Sentencing Outcomes in 28 Felony Courts, 1985 [United States]. ICPSR08708-v1. ICPSR ed. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2018-01-10.

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This study was funded by:

  • United States Department of Justice. Office of Justice Programs. Bureau of Justice Statistics (82-BJ-CX K046)

Scope of Study

Subject Terms:    aggravated assault, burglary, drug traffic, felony courts, larceny, rape, robbery, sentencing

Geographic Coverage:    United States

Time Period:   

  • 1985

Universe:    Twenty-eight jurisdictions with populations ranging from 294,000 to 7,900,000.

Data Type(s):    aggregate data


Sample:    All sentences meted out in courts of general jurisdiction for seven felony offenses. Sampling was low for homicide and rape but higher for burglary, larceny, and drug trafficking. The cases are weighted by the inverse of their sampling ratio with 23,389 records adjusted to represent 71,231 weighted records.

Data Source:

court records, prosecutorial or criminal justice information system

Extent of Processing:   ICPSR data undergo a confidentiality review and are altered when necessary to limit the risk of disclosure. ICPSR also routinely creates ready-to-go data files along with setups in the major statistical software formats as well as standard codebooks to accompany the data. In addition to these procedures, ICPSR performed the following processing steps for this data collection:

  • Standardized missing values.
  • Performed recodes and/or calculated derived variables.
  • Checked for undocumented or out-of-range codes.


Original ICPSR Release:   1987-10-12

Version History:

  • 2005-11-04 On 2005-03-14 new files were added to one or more datasets. These files included additional setup files as well as one or more of the following: SAS program, SAS transport, SPSS portable, and Stata system files. The metadata record was revised 2005-11-04 to reflect these additions.
  • 1997-04-14 SAS data definition statements are now available for this collection, and the SPSS data definition statements have been updated.

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