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Organizational Efficiency and Early Disposition Programs in Federal Courts, Executive Summary

NCJ Number
Date Published
December 2013
14 pages
This is the executive summary of a report on the impact of Federal courts' "fast-track" programs on case processing time and sentence length.
"Fast-track" programs in Federal sentencing allow a prosecutor to offer a below-guidelines sentence in exchange for a defendant's prompt guilty plea and waiver of certain pretrial and post-conviction rights. These programs have been authorized for use in some, but not all, Federal districts. They are used mostly for immigration offenses. The findings of the current study indicate that fast-track programs have reduced case processing time and increased sentencing disparity; however, the extent of the impact of fast-track programs on these outcomes has been modest. Fast-track participants who waived the due process right to appeal in exchange for a reduced sentence did not receive as much of a reduction in sentence length as anticipated. The estimated reduction in case-processing time was also moderate, producing modest savings in resources. This study advises that more attention should be given to how fast-track programs are implemented, since there is significant variation in the use of these programs across districts. Also, although immigration offenses have become the largest offense category in the Federal justice system, little is known about how immigration cases are processed. The report recommends that the Federal Government require higher standards of accountability, efficiency, and equity in the processing of immigration cases. In addition, research should be conducted on the process of prosecutorial and judicial decisionmaking in Federal courts, as well as the evaluation of the cost-effectiveness of sentencing options in fast-track cases. This study used Federal Justice Statistics Program data from fiscal year 2006 to fiscal year 2009. 4 exhibits

Date Published: December 1, 2013