Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2023, $282,791)
The NM SAC is located within the Institute for Social Research (ISR) at the University of New Mexico. The current project is being submitted under Area II: Special Emphasis Capacity-Building Projects, Theme A. Use of Administrative or Operational Criminal Justice Data; use data exchange capacity for targeted research. The NM SAC will collaborate with the New Mexico Sentencing Commission (NMSC) and the Maine Statistical Analysis Center for this project. This three-year project has two key components: a) assess disposition and sentencing data quality for felony-level cases over a seven-year period and 2) complete a research study examining community-based sentences. Community-based supervision is intended to reduce the harmful effects of incarceration while holding the offender accountable. Although community-based supervision is common across the United States, there is little research comparing the different types of sentences ordered. The current study will focus on three types of alternative sentences: conditional discharges, deferred sentences, and suspended sentences. The research will help the SAC to better understand when judges order these sentences, whether there are differences in sentence length and success rates, and how this varies by legal and extralegal variables. The results of the study are expected to add to the existing literature and inform policy makers and others within the state about the use of these sentences and their outcomes. This is particularly important as there are concerns that rather than reduce the harmful effects of incarceration, the use of community-based sentences actually “widen the net” due to revocations to prison for technical violations. Understanding who is most likely to be successful under what circumstances has value across the criminal justice system.