Today’s “Hanging Judge” May Be Young And Female

A new study shows that younger female judges are tougher on serious crime than their male and older female colleagues.

Researchers found that, on average, younger female judges (under age 56.4) sentenced defendants convicted of “high harm” crimes to 24% more incarceration (4.9 years more) than did their male colleagues, and to 25% more incarceration (5.1years more) than did their older female colleagues.

The study, published in the Columbia Journal of Gender and Law, is entitled, “The Intersectionality of Age and Gender on the Bench: Are Younger Female Judges Harsher With Serious Crimes?” The lead author is Morris B. Hoffman, a Colorado judge and member of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Law and Neuroscience.

Although the title poses a question, the study concludes that younger female judges are significantly harsher in sentencing “high harm” crimes or serious felonies.

The researchers found that age, gender and the degree of harm of the crime standing alone did not account for the difference:  “Only when we considered age, gender, and harm levels together did we see these three factors impact—and impact substantially—the sentences imposed by these judges,”  Interestingly, length of service on the bench was not a factor.

The study offers no explanation for the findings, though one possible explanation is that younger women tend to be more punitive than men when it comes to men-on-women violence and crimes against children.

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