Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


International Crime and Justice

First Advisor's Name

Besiki Kutateladze

First Advisor's Committee Title


Second Advisor's Name

Rebecca Dunlea

Second Advisor's Committee Title


Third Advisor's Name

Lin Liu

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Fourth Advisor's Name

Keith Revell

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

Outside Committee Member


criminology, criminal justice

Date of Defense



Prosecutors are powerful actors in the American criminal justice system, yet relatively little is known about their decision making compared to other legal agents. They decide to bring charges against defendants and are granted substantial influence over plea negotiations, thus affecting the trajectory of case outcomes. While an emerging body of scholarship examines what factors influence prosecutorial discretion, there are few studies that examine how their identities influence case outcomes. Once a traditionally, white, male-dominated field, prosecution is becoming more diverse. Research suggests representation affects organizational output. This theory, known as representative bureaucracy, suggests that more diverse organizations have more democratic output. In prosecutors’ offices, this may entail policies that reduce unwarranted disparities stemming from arrests or advocating for vulnerable victims. To assess the effects of representative bureaucracy theory on criminal case processing, the current study analyzes the relationship between prosecutor gender and charge reductions, prosecutorial dismissals, plea dispositions, and custodial sentences. Based on tenets of representative bureaucracy theory, it is possible female prosecutors’ cases will result in fewer unwarranted disparities for defendants. Mixed effects logistic regression models are used to (1) show the effects of variation in prosecutors assigned to cases on the four outcomes and (2) show the effects of variation in prosecutors assigned to cases on the four outcomes while controlling for a variety of defendant and legal factors. Explained variation due to prosecutors is high in charge reductions, but considerably lower in others. Results also do not show a significant influence of prosecutor gender on the four case outcomes except for a few differences. These results are discussed in the context of organizational socialization in prosecutors. Prosecutors’ individual identities may not be as influential for decision making. Office culture may lead prosecutors to align their decision making to fit the norms and practices of their organization.





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