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Charge Reduction: An Intermediary Stage in the Process of Labelling Criminal Defendants

Ilene Nagel Bernstein, Edward Kick, Jan T. Leung and Barbara Schulz
Social Forces
Vol. 56, No. 2, Special Issue (Dec., 1977), pp. 362-384
Published by: Oxford University Press
DOI: 10.2307/2577731
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2577731
Page Count: 23
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Charge Reduction: An Intermediary Stage in the Process of Labelling Criminal Defendants
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Abstract

The interactionist perspective emphasizes the imperfect correspondence between alleged deviance and societal reactions. Moreover, it is asserted that values of reactors, statuses of the alleged deviant, and bureaucratic constraints of deviance processing organizations help explain some of that imperfection. Focusing on one intermediary deviance processing stage, i.e., plea bargaining, we explore the degree to which our data are consonant with interactionist assumptions. For a sample of 1,435 male and female criminal defendants, we find the favorability of the charge reduction outcome is partly explained by values of reactors, statuses of the defendant, and bureaucratic constraints of the court. Thus, our data are supportive of the general thrust of interactionist works. However, the relative size of each of these effects suggests that reformulations of that perspective should attend to the finding that ascribed statuses play far less of a determinative role, and organizational goals seem to play a more determinative role, suggesting that greater attention be paid to organizational variables.

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