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25 Crim. Just. Pol'y Rev. 3 (2014)

handle is hein.journals/cjpr25 and id is 1 raw text is: 


Mitigating the Effect

of a Criminal Record

at Sentencing: Local

Life Circumstances and

Substantial Assistance

Departures Among

Recidivists in Federal Court

    Criminal Justice Policy Review
           2014,Vol 25(l) 3-28
       © 2012 SAGE Publications
       Reprints and permissions:
  DOI: 10.1177/0887403412459542

Natalie R. Ortiz' and Cassia Spohn'

The assumption in courts and sentencing research is that recidivists-or,
defendants with a criminal record who are facing new charges-are considered more
blameworthy and perceived as more dangerous by courtroom decision makers,
including prosecutors. Nagel and Schulhofer suggested that defendants with a prior
record may be viewed as sympathetic by federal prosecutors because of human
factors, leading to substantial assistance departures in these cases. We conceptualize
human factors as local life circumstances, or temporally bound situations that
make attributional statements about the defendant. We operationalize local life
circumstances in terms of employment status, financial responsibility to dependents,
and drug use, and determine whether these circumstances affect the likelihood of a
receiving a substantial assistance departure among defendants with an established
record of criminality. In addition to case characteristics, employment and drug use
increased the likelihood of a prosecutor-sponsored sentence departure among
recidivists in federal court.

sentencing, drug offenders, prosecutors, criminal history

'Arizona State University, Phoenix, AZ, USA

Corresponding Author:
Natalie R. Ortiz, School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Arizona State University,
411 N. Central Ave., Suite 600, Phoenix, AZ 85004, USA.
Email: natalie.ortiz@asu.edu

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