Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Criminal Justice

First Committee Member

Richard McCorkle

Number of Pages



The purpose of this study was to examine the evolution of major drug laws in the United States, the variation in statutory penalties between selected states, and to determine if the written law is reflected in sentencing and prison admissions. Penalties for felony possession and illicit trafficking for five states-Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Nevada, and New York---were compared with case disposition, incarceration rates, and average time offenders spend in jail or prison for these offenses. Two data sources from Bureau of Justice Statistics were utilized for this analysis. The first data set was titled "State Court Processing Statistics, 1990, 1992, 1994, and 1996: Felony Defendants in Large Urban Counties." The second data set was titled "National Corrections Reporting Program: 1998." These two sources provided data on the above stated variables. Results of analysis indicate that variation in statutory penalties do in fact exist, and certain states have more punitive aspects than others. However, the length of time offenders spend in jail or prison within selected states that have more punitive aspects in their statutes are comparable to, and sometimes, less punitive in the sentencing of offenders.


American; Courts; Drug; Evolution; Laws; Penalties; Sentencing; State; Variation

Controlled Subject


File Format


File Size

1884.16 KB

Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




If you are the rightful copyright holder of this dissertation or thesis and wish to have the full text removed from Digital Scholarship@UNLV, please submit a request to and include clear identification of the work, preferably with URL.


IN COPYRIGHT. For more information about this rights statement, please visit