Size, Monitoring and Plea Rate: An Examination of United States Attorneys
A theoretical model relates case mix, staffing, and monitoring to the likelihood of a plea agreement. Analysis of federal drug trafficking cases in fiscal years 1993 through 1996 leads to the following conclusions: There are fewer pleas in districts that are understaffed and are facing more severe crimes. Further, there are fewer pleas in United States Attorney districts with many or with few prosecutors, and there are more pleas in United States Attorney districts with an average number of prosecutors. The explanation for the latter results is that prosecutors may take cases to trial to acquire human capital unless they are closely monitored. Estimation of the monitoring technology shows that it exhibits increasing returns to scale for small districts, and decreasing returns to scale for large districts. Given such a monitoring technology, the relationship between the number of prosecutors and the level of monitoring is consistent with an optimal allocation of resources between monitoring and prosecution.
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