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Predicting Criminal Justice Outcomes: What Matters?

NCJ Number
Date Published
June 1991
A sample of 1,115 burglary and 1,148 robbery defendants from 14 urban sites was studied to explore the extent to which conviction rates, case disposition times, and other adjudication outcomes differed between jurisdictions. Case and defendant characteristics were analyzed to determine which types of cases were most likely to result in guilty pleas and which were likely to go to trial.

The study results showed that most defendants were convicted and incarcerated. Of those charged with burglary, 88 percent were convicted and 74 percent incarcerated, whereas 84 percent of those charged with robbery were convicted and 78 percent incarcerated. The findings indicated that, in most cases, defendants with similar case characteristics and criminal records had the same probability of conviction and incarceration, regardless of jurisdiction. Similar results were found in terms of the rate of guilty pleas and the case disposition time. However, it appeared that jurisdiction did affect the conviction rate of defendants who went to trial. Defendants pleaded guilty most often when the charge was less serious and there was less evidence for the prosecution. The incarceration rate was not related to whether the defendant went to trial or pleaded guilty. Defendants with overlapping cases were more likely to be convicted and imprisoned. Future research should focus on equity after sentencing and factors associated with recidivism. 4 figures, 33 tables, 7 appendixes, and 8 references

Date Published: June 24, 1991