SAGE Journal Articles

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Journal Article 1: Vance, S. E., Richmond, K. M., Oleson, J. C., & Bushway, S. D. (2017). Weighing the value of the bargain: Prosecutorial discretion after sentencing guidelines. Criminal Justice Policy Review.

Abstract: There is little empirical research to indicate whether the introduction of sentencing guidelines displaces discretion from judges to prosecutors. In the handful of studies that examine the hydraulic displacement of discretion, discretion is usually measured by the rate of charge bargaining. The current study uses an alternative methodology—calculating the value of the bargain—to examine the effect of sentencing guidelines on prosecutorial discretion in the District of Columbia Superior Court. It measures the impact of charge bargaining on sentence length in a sample of 266 pre-guidelines sentences and 263 post-guidelines sentences, and finds that the rate of charge bargaining did not change after the introduction of guidelines, but that the impact of bargaining on sentence length increased slightly. Although the amount of displacement of discretion in the D.C. Guidelines was modest, the study demonstrates that alternative measures (value of the bargain) might reveal displacement of discretion when traditional measures (rate of the bargain) do not.

Journal Article 2: Ostrom, B. J., Hanson, R. A., & Kleiman, M. (2018). Improving the pace of criminal case processing in state trial courts. Criminal Justice Police Review, 29, 736–760.

Abstract: Delay in the processing of criminal cases has long been viewed as a serious national problem. Substantial differences exist among courts in the average time it takes to resolve both felony and misdemeanor cases, with past research producing inconclusive results on the causes of observed variation. In response, and with the support of the Arnold Foundation, the objective of this article is to highlight predictable variation in the timeliness of criminal case processing and how this knowledge supports court efforts to become more expeditious. Drawing on an extensive set of felony and misdemeanor cases resolved in seven Colorado courts, statistical analysis uncovers important patterns in the composition of criminal caseloads and clarifies how composition influences case duration. Moreover, similarities in the makeup of criminal caseloads show the utility of fundamental principles of criminal caseflow management and how courts benefit from being assessed comparatively against established performance benchmarks.