National Archive of Criminal Justice Data

This dataset is maintained and distributed by the National Archive of Criminal Justice Data (NACJD), the criminal justice archive within ICPSR. NACJD is primarily sponsored by three agencies within the U.S. Department of Justice: the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the National Institute of Justice, and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

Crime Control Effects of Sentencing in Essex County, New Jersey, 1976-1997 (ICPSR 2857) RSS

Principal Investigator(s):

Summary:

This study was undertaken to examine the ways in which different felony sanctions impact the future behavior of felony offenders. The study sought to determine whether the following made a difference in subsequent criminal behavior: (1) sentences of confinement, (2) the length of sentence (both the sentence imposed and that which was actually served), and (3) sentences of probation combined with jail ("split" sentences), or combined with fines, restitution, or other alternative sanctions. Data were collected from questionnaires completed by 18 judges of the Essex County, New Jersey, courts and by probation staff. Follow-up data were collected from official records provided by probation, jail, prison, and parole case files. Follow-up data were also collected from the following official records: (1) the New Jersey Offender-Based Transaction System Computerized Criminal History, (2) the New Jersey Department of Corrections Offender-Based Correctional Information System, (3) the United States Department of Justice Interstate Identification Index, (4) the National Crime Information Center Wanted Persons File, (5) the New Jersey PROMIS/GAVEL Prosecutors Case Tracking System, and (6) administrative record files of the New Jersey Department of Corrections. Variables in the data file include the most serious offense charge, most serious offense of conviction, dimension of conviction, offense type (person, property, social order, fraud, or drug offense), number of prior probations, number of probation revocations, number of prior jail and prison terms, mitigating and aggravating factors affecting the sentence, type of sentence, special conditions of probation, fines and restitutions imposed, minimum and maximum incarceration terms (in months), history of drug offenses, type of drugs used, probation and parole violations, total number of prior arrests and prior convictions, and longest arrest-free period after first arrest. The type of post-sentence offense, dimension, disposition charge, sentence, and date of arrest are provided for arresting events and charge episodes 1 through 108 for any offender. For up to 43 arrest events (for any offender), the date of lockup and date of exit from confinement are provided. The file also includes recommendations made by prosecutors and probation officers, and judges' ratings (on a scale of one to nine) with respect to the likelihood of an offender committing future property crimes, crimes against persons, or any crime. Judges also rated the arrest record length, conviction record length, and social stability of each offender. Retribution points, incapacitation points, and specific deterrence points assigned by the judges complete the file. Demographic variables include the race and sex of each convicted offender, and the age of the offender at first conviction.

Access Notes

  • These data are freely available.

Dataset(s)

Study Description

Citation

Gottfredson, Don M. CRIME CONTROL EFFECTS OF SENTENCING IN ESSEX COUNTY, NEW JERSEY, 1976-1997. ICPSR02857-v1. Newark, NJ: Rutgers University/Sacramento, CA: Justice Policy Research Corporation [producers], 1998. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2001. http://doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR02857.v1

Persistent URL:

Export Citation:

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Funding

This study was funded by:

  • United States Department of Justice. Office of Justice Programs. National Institute of Justice (95-IJ-CX-0118)

Scope of Study

Subject Terms:   arrest records, convictions (law), crime control, crime prevention, drug law offenses, felons, fines, imprisonment, jails, probation, recidivism, sentencing

Geographic Coverage:   New Jersey, United States

Time Period:  

  • 1976--1997

Date of Collection:  

  • 1976-05--1977-06
  • 1995-10--1997-02

Unit of Observation:   Individual

Universe:   All offenders sentenced by 18 judges handling criminal cases in the Essex County, New Jersey, courts between May 1976 and June 1977.

Data Types:   survey data, and administrative records data

Methodology

Study Purpose:   Typically, sentencing reform policies aimed at crime control, as well as arguments for and against the use of various alternative punishments, have been developed without rigorous analyses or careful examination of the results of sanctioning practices. Experimental design is generally not feasible in making sound comparisons of results regarding various punishments, because achieving equivalence among the groups compared is rarely possible at sentencing. Thus, complete results on the impact of sentencing and sanctioning practices are not available. Punishment policies have, therefore, been developed without full information about how sanctioning modifies, controls, or enhances the likelihood of future criminal behavior by a convicted offender. By relying on a rigorous quasiexperimental design based on multivariate models of judicial sentencing behavior, this study sought to examine the ways in which different felony sanctions impact the future behavior of felony offenders. This study attempted to determine whether the following made a difference in subsequent criminal behavior: (1) sentences of confinement, (2) the length of sentence (both the sentence imposed and that which was actually served), and (3) sentences of probation combined with jail ("split" sentences), or combined with fines, restitution, or other alternative sanctions.

Study Design:   Data were first collected from two sources: questionnaires completed by 18 judges in Essex County, New Jersey, courts, and reports by probation staff. Follow-up data were extracted from official records in two waves -- first, from probation, jail, prison, and parole files, and second, from several databases and additional sources. Judges completed questionnaires for a sample of offenders sentenced between May 1976 and June 1977. The questionnaires, designed with the help of the judges, provided data on their perceptions and judgments of the offense, offender, and sentencing decision. Each judge specifically provided a description of the actual sentence imposed, assessments of the seriousness of the offense, an estimate of the propensity of the offender to commit future crimes, a judgment of the lengths of the prior arrest and conviction records, a rating of the seriousness of prior records, an assessment of the social stability of the offender, and a listing of the mitigating or aggravating factors affecting the choice of sentence. All judges in the Essex County courts with assignments to criminal cases participated. One judge experienced lengthy trials, and so his few cases were excluded. All other judges (including those assigned only welfare fraud cases) were excluded. Users of the data should note the following: (1) There is the possibility of selection bias by the judges in regard to the choice of one sentence alternative over another. (2) There is no assurance that the judges had equivalent cases. Comparisons of judges' cases were made by analysis of variance of selected variables, and results suggest that caution be used in assuming that the 18 judges had cases that could be considered equivalent in all respects. The second source of data came from probation staff, who provided objective items extracted from criminal case files, which included charged and convicted offenses, the number of prior probations, probation revocations, jail terms, prison terms, sentence recommendations of the prosecutor and of the probation department, and information on previous sentences being served by the offender at the time of the sentencing. These data were collected after sentencing and were not systematically provided to the judges, but usually were included in the presentence report. After approximately one year, the first wave of follow-up data was initiated to determine how the sentences were actually carried out by the correctional system. These data were collected from probation, jail, prison, and parole files and included detailed data about offenders who were in community programs during the first few years after sentencing. The second wave of follow-up data began in October 1995 and ended in February 1997. In order to assess the impact of sentencing on subsequent criminal behavior, data were extracted from the following sources: (a) the New Jersey Offender-Based Transaction System Computerized Criminal History, which included New Jersey arrest records, with arrest and conviction data dating from 1972 to the present, (b) the New Jersey Department of Corrections Offender-Based Correctional Information System, which included correctional history data on admissions, departures, and status of state prisoners dating back to 1976, (c) the United States Department of Justice Interstate Identification Index, which included out-of-state records of arrests and convictions from the date of entry into the criminal justice system, (d) the National Crime Information Center Wanted Persons File, which provided current outstanding warrants from New Jersey and other state law enforcement agencies, (e) the New Jersey PROMIS/GAVEL Prosecutors Case Tracking System, used on a selective basis, which included pending or open New Jersey charges, and (f) administrative record files of the New Jersey Department of Corrections, also used on a selective basis, which included data on entry, transfer, and exits from the New Jersey prisons.

Sample:   Originally, researchers received questionnaires completed for 982 cases. Further examination showed that 6 records were duplicates, and 14 offenders were returned to court during the data collection period and were sentenced a second time. In these cases, only the first sentencing was included. Therefore, the total sample was reduced from the original 982 questionnaires completed by the judges to the 962 cases used in the full sample.

Data Source:

self-enumerated questionnaires, and official records

Description of Variables:   Variables include the most serious offense charge, most serious offense of conviction, dimension of conviction, offense type (person, property, social order, fraud, or drug offense), number of prior probations, number of probation revocations, number of prior jail and prison terms, mitigating and aggravating factors affecting the sentence, type of sentence, special conditions of probation, fines and restitutions imposed, minimum and maximum incarceration terms (in months), history of drug offenses, type of drugs used, probation and parole violations, total number of prior arrests and prior convictions, and longest arrest-free period after first arrest. The type of offense, dimension, disposition charge, sentence, and date of arrest are provided for arresting events and charge episodes 1 through 108 for any offender. For up to 43 arrest events (for any offender), the date of lockup and date of exit from confinement are provided. The file also includes recommendations made by prosecutors and probation officers, and judges' ratings (on a scale of one to nine) with respect to the likelihood of an offender committing future property crimes, crimes against persons, or any crime. Judges also rated the arrest record length, conviction record length, and social stability of each offender. Retribution points, incapacitation points, and specific deterrence points assigned by the judges complete the file. Demographic variables include the race and sex of each convicted offender, and age of offender at first conviction.

Response Rates:   Not applicable.

Presence of Common Scales:   None

Extent of Processing:  ICPSR data undergo a confidentiality review and are altered when necessary to limit the risk of disclosure. ICPSR also routinely creates ready-to-go data files along with setups in the major statistical software formats as well as standard codebooks to accompany the data. In addition to these procedures, ICPSR performed the following processing steps for this data collection:

  • Standardized missing values.
  • Checked for undocumented or out-of-range codes.

Version(s)

Original ICPSR Release:  

Version History:

  • 2005-11-04 On 2005-03-14 new files were added to one or more datasets. These files included additional setup files as well as one or more of the following: SAS program, SAS transport, SPSS portable, and Stata system files. The metadata record was revised 2005-11-04 to reflect these additions.

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