The Pretrial Detention Penalty: How Detention Impacts Case Outcomes
Posted: 3 Dec 2020 Last revised: 31 Aug 2021
Date Written: October 13, 2020
With data from over 80,000 New York City arraignments, we used ordinary least squares, coarsened exact matching, and instrumental variable analysis to estimate the impact of pretrial detention on multiple case outcomes: guilty plea, conviction, carceral sentence, and sentence length. The study builds upon previous research by employing multiple definitions of pretrial detention—any period of detention and detention to disposition—and examining differences by charge severity. We find that experiencing any period of pretrial detention increases the likelihood of a guilty plea or conviction for misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies, while being detained to disposition increases the likelihood of conviction across all charge severities. Both any detention and detention to disposition increase the likelihood of a carceral sentence. We find no clear evidence that detention increases sentence length.
Keywords: pretrial, detention, bail, sentencing, coarsened exact matching, instrumental variable
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