WHAT YOU DON'T KNOW CAN HURT YOU: FIRST-TIME OFFENDERS AND SENTENCE SEVERITY
Traditionally, sentencing research demonstrates a positive relationship between prior record and sentence severity. The current research, however, demonstrates that under certain circumstances offenders with a prior record, but no prior incarcerations, are sentenced less severely than similarly situated first-time offenders. The analysis demonstrates that first-time and experienced offenders commit the same types of offenses. However, first-time offenders are more likely to be convicted of more serious charges and subsequently sentenced to longer prison terms than experienced offenders. It is suggested that repeat offenders, having familiarity with the courtroom workgroup and its nuances, are better able to manipulate the system to their advantage.