Does the Premium Fit the Risk? The Role of Criminal Escalation in Case Processing

Shi Yan, Jason W. Walker

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Legal and qualitative studies have highlighted that courtroom actors consider multiple aspects of criminal records. However, most quantitative studies on sentencing only included the number of prior convictions or arrests, with little attention to the seriousness trends of those priors. Taking stock from studies on criminal careers, we used group-based trajectory modeling (GBTM) to identify patterns of escalation and de-escalation among a defendant sample in New York State (n = 56,017), and then examined the role of trajectory groups in four decision points: dismissal, charge reduction, incarceration, and incarceration length. We found that escalation, de-escalation, and a higher stable level of crime seriousness were associated with less favorable outcomes at multiple decision points.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)1462-1491
    Number of pages30
    JournalCrime and Delinquency
    Issue number9
    StatePublished - Aug 2022


    • criminal careers
    • criminal escalation
    • criminal records
    • group-based trajectory modeling
    • sentencing

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
    • Law


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