Nebraska Criminal & Trial Lawyers
High School Graduates Have An Edge In Criminal Sentencing

High School Graduates Have An Edge In Criminal Sentencing

Here’s yet another reason to stay in school: A new study found that high school graduates who face criminal charges are less likely to be sent to prison than those without a high school diploma. What’s more, graduates who are sent to prison receive shorter sentences than similar criminal offenders who have not finished high school.

Numerous studies have been completed over the years on a wide range of factors that affect sentencing outcomes, including race, age, sex and income. Until now, few studies have looked at offenders’ educational attainment and its impact on sentencing.

10 Percent Less Likely to be Jailed

The study on courts was conducted by Travis W. Franklin, an associate professor in the Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas. Franklin examined more than 115,000 criminal cases, one-third of whom had not completed high school. Franklin’s analysis produced important insights as it relates to education level and sentencing:

  • High school graduates are 10 percent less likely to be sent to prison than similarly situated offenders who did not finish high school.
  • The sentences of high school graduates are approximately 1.4 percent shorter than the sentences of individuals who have not completed high school.

College Degrees Are Not A Factor

Interestingly, Franklin’s study indicates that earning a college degree does not provide a statistically significant advantage or disadvantage in terms of whether someone is sentenced to prison, nor does it impact the length of a sentence.

Past studies have shown that determinations on how deserving an offender is of punishment and how likely it is that an offender will commit a crime again are based, in part, on “extralegal” factors such as race, age, sex and other characteristics that feed into commonly held stereotypes about criminality.

The U.S. Sentencing Commission (USSC) was established by Congress in 1984 as a permanent independent agency within the judicial branch. The fairness of the commission’s sentencing guidelines have long been questioned. Nonprofit organizations, including The Sentencing Project and Families Against Mandatory Minimums, have lobbied for changes to sentencing guidelines.

Clearly, it is critical to enlist knowledgeable legal representation when you face criminal charges no matter your race, sex or educational attainment.


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