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The Extremism Sentencing Study: Judicial Outcomes and Recidivism Among Individuals Convicted of International and Domestic Terrorism

Award Information

Award #
Funding Category
Competitive Discretionary
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2023, $762,553)

In recent years, there has been a rapid increase in the number of domestic extremism prosecutions in the United States, prompting some legal observers to argue that deficiencies in the current legal code are producing unwarranted disparities in the judicial outcomes of international and domestic terrorism cases. Legal advocates have proposed amending the U.S. code to close these disparities, arguing that stiffer penalties in domestic extremism cases will have general and specific deterrent effects and will lower the likelihood that individuals convicted in these cases will recidivate. However, these arguments have not been based on empirical assessments of judicial outcomes in U.S. terrorism cases or their effect on terrorist recidivism. This project will address these gaps by updating and expanding the Profiles of Individual Radicalization in the United States (PIRUS) database to include the judicial outcomes of U.S. international and domestic terrorism prosecutions. PIRUS currently includes individual, network, and event-level information for more than 3,000 individuals who committed international and domestic extremist crimes in the United States through 2021. By building on and leveraging the PIRUS data, the project team will conduct a multi-decade and multi-domain analysis of U.S. terrorism cases that will (1) determine the extent of sentencing and related disparities in international and domestic terrorism prosecutions; (2) examine if observed disparities in judicial outcomes are the product of individual-level characteristics, socio-political context, the decision-making processes of courts and judges, or the nuances of the current legal regime; and (3) identify the role that judicial outcomes play in increasing or lowering the risk that individuals convicted in international and domestic terrorism cases will reoffend when controlling for relevant individual, social, and situational factors. The project team will use advanced regression methods with regularization to isolate the effects of legal statutes on judicial outcomes in terrorism prosecutions and to determine what individual, social, and legal factors are most important for explaining recidivism in international and domestic terrorism cases. This project will also include a systematic legal review of the charges used in international and domestic terrorism prosecutions, the proposals for novel legislation, and the potential impact of legal revisions on the protection of civil liberties. By leveraging the project team’s extensive experience in practitioner engagement and training, the project will significantly improve the scientific knowledge that prosecutors, judges, probation officers, and other criminal justice professionals use to make important prosecution and supervision decisions in international and domestic terrorism cases. CA/NCF

Date Created: September 8, 2023