John Kramer

John Kramer
Emeritus Professor of Sociology and Criminology


Ph.D. Sociology, The University of Iowa

Professional Bio

Research and Teaching Interests

My research examines decision making in the criminal justice system and in particular decision making in the courts. From 1979-1998, I served as the Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing. During my tenure, the Commission wrote, implemented, and monitored sentencing guidelines for Pennsylvania's courts. From 1996-1998 I served as Staff Director of the United States Sentencing Commission where I supervised the Commission staff. My work with the two sentencing commissions focused my research over the past 25 years on developing, implementing, and evaluating public policy and on the ability of public policy to change decision making in the criminal justice system.

My research generally merges analysis of quantitative data with qualitative data. Currently, my colleagues and I have a National Science Foundation Grant studying the processing of cases in the federal courts. This research is using a data set compiled by the Urban Institute that merged data on prosecutorial decision making with data from the Administrative Office of the United States Courts, the United States Sentencing Commission and the Federal Bureau of Prisons. We are complementing this data with interviews of United States Attorneys and Assistant United States Attorneys, defense attorneys, judges, and probation officers in eight districts across the country. This is the most comprehensive federal court study ever conducted and will be the focus of my work for the near future. I am also conducting a study of the effectiveness of drug treatment programs.

My teaching interests focus on undergraduate and graduate courses studying the link of research to policy development in the criminal justice system and decision making in the courts and corrections.

Currently I am working on a monograph on the development of Pennsylvania's sentencing guidelines and the Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing and I am starting a monograph from our federal study on the role of the sentencing guidelines in the federal courts.

Selected Publications

  • "Downward Departures for Serious Violent Offenders: Local Court 'Corrections' to Pennsylvania's Sentencing Guidelines." 2002 Criminology. 40:4 (with Jeff Ulmer).
  • "Offense Seriousness as Measured in the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines. 1999 Federal Sentencing Reporter.
  • "Warranted and Unwarranted Complexity in the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines." 1998 Law and Policy. 20:4.
  • "The Interaction of Race, Gender, and Age in Criminal Sentencing: The Punishment Cost of Being Young, Black, and Male." 1998 Criminology. 36:4. (with Darrell Steffensmeier and Jeffery Ulmer)
  • "The Use and Transformation of Formal Decision-Making Criteria: Sentencing Guidelines, Organizational Contexts, and Case Processing Strategies." 1996 Social Problems. 45:2. (with Jeffery Ulmer)
  • "Race and Imprisonment Decisions." 1993 The Sociological Quarterly. 34:2. (with Darrell Steffensmeier)
  • "Sentencing Guidelines: A Quantitative Comparison of Sentencing Policy in Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Washington." 1989 Justice Quarterly6:4. (with Robin Lubitz and Cynthia Kempinen)
  • "Pennsylvania's Sentencing Reform: The Impact of Commission Established Guidelines." 1985 Crime and Delinquency 31:4. (with Rob Lubitz)


  • Citations from Chief Justice of Pennsylvania Supreme Court, the Pennsylvania Senate, and the Pennsylvania House of Representatives for service as Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing. 1998
  • Awarded the Pioneer Award by the National Association of Sentencing Commissions. 1998
John Kramer