Processing and Punishment: Examining the Relationship between Time to Disposition, Mode of Conviction, and Sentence Severity
Stewart, Christina Danielle
Johnson, Brian D
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The literature on sentencing assumes a strong relationship between processing time and case outcomes, both directly and in connection with the mode of conviction. Yet, the role of time has largely been ignored in research on court actor decision making. The current study examines this important, although rarely empirically tested, dimension of the criminal justice process. By combining data from the Maryland State Commission on Criminal Sentencing Policy with information from court records, this study explores the effect of time to disposition on sentence severity and assess the impact that controlling for time to disposition has on mode of conviction effects. Findings support the importance of time to sentencing, demonstrating a significant, positive effect of time to disposition on sentence severity. Time to disposition, however, does not mediate the effects of mode of conviction, which raises important theoretical questions about the mechanisms driving trial penalties.