This study seeks to understand the impact that fast-track cases have on the disparity in sentencing decisions when they are used in federal immigration cases.
This study is primarily interested in two outcome measures: sentence length and case processing time of fast-track versus non fast-track cases. Data were taken from the Federal Justice Statistics Program (FJSP)(https://www.icpsr.umich.edu/icpsrweb/ICPSR/series/73), which merge data from the Administrative Office of the United States Courts (AOUSC) with data from the United States Sentencing Commission (USSC). Based on multiple yearly cohorts of defendant cases from 2006 to 2009 across the United States, analyses were developed to assess the impact of fast-track programs among immigration offenders. This study was restricted to 89 federal districts located within the United States.
To interpret the difference between treatment and control groups as a causal effect of treatment, propensity score methods were used. To do this, the cases were matched to one another which involved pairing treatment and comparison units that were similar in terms of their observed characteristics. Specifically, characteristics considered were demographics of the defendant, counsel type, criminal history, number of unique statutes, number of dependents the defendant supports, level of acceptance of responsibility, level of education, severity of charges, pretrial detention, and month/year of sentencing.
The analysis is conducted in two schemes. In the first scheme, researchers matched fast-track cases to non-fast-track cases that could have received fast-track treatment, conditional on case characteristics, but did not. The second scheme involved matching fast-track cases to similar, yet ineligible cases, due to the case being in a district that did not authorize fast-track. By having the two separate schemes examined, researchers were able to compare results from the second matching scheme with those from the first, allowing a more informative look at the extent of district-level disparities, and not just fast track to non-fast-track cases nationwide.
The sample for this study comes from Federal Justice Statistics Program (FJSP) data. The study uses data on 303,300 criminal defendant cases, both fast-track and non-fast-track, in federal districts across the United States from 2006 to 2009.
Defendant cases processed in federal courts between 2006-2009.
United States Sentencing Commission (USSC)
Federal Justice Statistics Program (FJSP)
Administrative Office of the United States Courts (AOUSC)
administrative records data
This study contains one dataset with 214 variables and 303,300 cases drawn from the Federal Justice Statistics Program (FJSP).
Data from this program originate from two sources.
- Administrative Office of the United States Courts (AOUSC) which identifies defendants in federal criminal cases terminated in district courts
- United States Sentencing Commission (USSC) which collects sentencing information on felony defendants in the federal criminal justice system.
Variables in this study include demographics of the defendant (race, gender, age at sentencing, citizenship status, highest level of education), counsel type, criminal history, number of unique statutes in case, number of dependents the defendant supports, to what level offender accepted responsibility, severity of charges, pretrial detention, and month/year of sentencing. Additionally, there are variables conveying the case court district, type of immigration issue, district case statistics, length of time to trial, jury information, and whether the case was fast-tracked or not. Finally, variables were constructed on the probability of a case being fast tracked, propensity scores, and treatment indicators.