Date of Award




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


School of Criminal Justice

Content Description

1 online resource (iii, 220 pages) : illustrations (some color)

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Shawn D Bushway

Committee Members

Robert W Brame, Megan C Kurlychek, Justin T Pickett, Sarah Tahamont


Criminal Specialization, Plea Bargaining, Sentencing, Sentences (Criminal procedure), Recidivists, Criminal statistics, Plea bargaining

Subject Categories

Criminology | Law


The dissertation consists of two studies. Study 1 examines how criminal specialization predicts the sentencing outcomes. Theories of sentencing have pointed out the association between the sentence and the assessment of the defendant’s risk and culpability, and one of the most important indicators of an individual’s risk is his or her criminal records. Most quantitative studies of sentencing today take criminal records into consideration by controlling for the number of prior criminal justice contacts, and overlook the nature of the prior crimes. The concept criminal specialization refers to the tendency for an individual to repeat the same or a set of related crimes. In the present study, I use four different measures, which model different dimensions of criminal specialization. I model criminal specialization from the records of over 110,000 defendants convicted in New York State between 2010 and 2012, and add the measures of criminal specialization to models explaining incarceration and incarceration length. Study 1 finds that even though the four different measures capture different aspects of specialization, all the measures find that the analytic sample contained a mix of versatile defendants and specialized defendants. However, the four measures perform very differently in predicting the sentence.