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Assessing the Impact of Plea Bargaining on Subsequent Violence for Firearm Offenders

Award Information

Award #
Funding Category
Competitive Discretionary
Congressional District
Past Project Period End Date
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2020, $369,412)

This project's purpose is to examine the impacts of the scope and impact of plea bargaining in firearm cases, including how it shapes criminal sentencing outcomes and impacts subsequent patterns of violent recidivism. By developing detailed measures of plea bargaining discounts, the project will examine their effects on sentencing and recidivism for firearms-involved offenders. The project will answer three research questions: 1) What are the extent and patterns of plea-bargaining for firearm-related charges? 2) What is the typical "distance traveled" in plea-bargains for firearms offenses? 3) To what extent does plea-bargaining shape subsequent patterns of recidivism? The analysis will be based on multiple data sources, including police arrest data, judicial case processing data, and recidivism data from detailed criminal histories, for a cohort of over 20,000 offenders arrested for firearm crimes and convicted by guilty plea in Maryland District and Circuity Courts between 2015 and 2019. The sample consists of those who are charged with crimes involving firearms who are convicted by guilty pleas in the Maryland District and Circuit Courts between 2015 and 2019. The charges will consist of the following: 1. unlawful carrying; 2. Possession; 3. Use; 4. Transportation; 5. sale of a firearm; and 6. offenses in which a firearm was used in the commission of another crime. Data will come from the following sources: Judicial case processing data from the Client Legal Utility Engine (CLUE); Sentencing data from the Maryland State Commission on Criminal Sentencing Policy (MSCCSP); Individual criminal history and recidivism records from the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (DPSCS) – Criminal Justice Information System (CJIS); Incident-based crime data collected for the National Incident-Based Crime Reporting System (NIBRS) in Prince George's County, Maryland. The key independent variable involves a measure of the "distance traveled" in plea-bargaining, or the extent to which changes in the number and severity of charges reduce sentence severity. The study then will investigate how sentence reductions affects recidivism, including re-arrests and re-convictions, for violent crimes and firearm offenses. The study includes an analysis of statewide sentencing and recidivism patterns, along with a focused analysis of one county where incident-level police data are available. The former serves to maximize generalizability, whereas the latter allows for a more detailed analysis of local practice. Note: This project contains a research and/or development component, as defined in applicable law, and complies with Part 200 Uniform Requirements - 2 CFR 200.210(a)(14). CA/NCF

Date Created: September 16, 2020