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Title:Structural and Cultural Sources of Variation in Guilty Plea Rates: A Study of Illinois Circuit Courts
Author(s):Wooldredge, John David
Department / Program:Sociology
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Sociology, Criminology and Penology
Abstract:Guilty pleas account for 90% of all felony case convictions in the United States. Guilty pleas result from one of two decision-making procedures. First, defendants may decide to plead guilty outright. Such "explicit" pleas account for the vast majority of these submissions. Second, they may result from "plea bargaining", a procedure where defendants forego the opportunity to contest their legal guilt at trial and submit pleas of "guilty" in exchange for reduced charges and/or sentences from the court. Yet "guilty plea rates of felony case convictions" generally range from .65 to .98 annually across U.S. circuit courts, indicating that the average of .90 is not uniform across jurisdictions. Criminal justice theorists have researched the "causes" of this variation due to concern for whether defendants in court systems with relatively high guilty plea rates are being "coerced" into pleading guilty by attorneys wishing to avoid trials. Is an adequate determination of legal guilt provided is such systems? To answer this question, theory on the guilty plea process has focused on the context of courtroom decision-making while placing little emphasis on the importance of external (environmental) factors in shaping these decisions.
This study adopts a structural approach to the analysis of variation in guilty plea rates across 101 circuit courts in Illinois to advance theory on the guilty plea process into the realm of macro-sociological thought. By also using case studies to test some of the cultural theories relevant to the topic, it is shown that the integration of these two perspectives provides a more insightful picture of the causes of variation in guilty plea rates across circuit courts.
Several structural correlates are found to be highly influential in shaping attorneys' decisions regarding their choice of case disposition, their skills regarding case preparation and trial presentations, and how favorably court participants view the plea bargaining procedure.
Issue Date:1986
Description:234 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1986.
Other Identifier(s):(UMI)AAI8701659
Date Available in IDEALS:2014-12-16
Date Deposited:1986

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