Berryessa, C.M. (2019). Judicial stereotyping associated with genetic essentialist biases toward mental disorders and potential negative effects on sentencing. Law & Society Review 53(1): 202-238.
This research, utilizing qualitative methodology with grounded theory, develops a model that illuminates a process by which judicial stereotyping associated with genetic essentialist biases toward mental disorders may affect judges’ views regarding the sentencing and punishment of offenders with mental disorder diagnoses presented or understood to be genetically influenced. Data, collected through interviews with a sample of 59 Pennsylvania State Court judges, suggest that judges exhibit stereotyping behavior by linking the relationships between three particular genetic essentialist biases (immutability, informativeness, uniformity) and three types of stigmatization (pessimism, dangerousness, family stigma) associated with each bias. When judges exhibited this stereotyping behavior without the effects of intervening conditions, they then expressed how knowledge of the genetic influences of an offender’s mental disorder would negatively influence views on punishment, specifically related to more restrictive sentences and support for deterrence and incapacitation. Three intervening conditions associated with judges’ personal characteristics (personal experiences involving genetics, strength of determinism vs. free will beliefs, having no personal experiences with mental disorders) influenced whether judges’ sentencing views were negatively influenced by such knowledge on genetics. Implications related to therapeutic jurisprudence are discussed.