The study of correlates of decision-making has been an important and integral part of criminal justice research. While this important research has been studied largely since the conception of criminal justice research, the attempts to take stock and determine what the body of research collectively “knows” has been limited. These limitations have included both the method of synthesis and also the focus of the synthesis. Traditionally, criminal justice scholars have taken stock of correlate research by using narrative literature review techniques. While this research does make some contribution to the field, it is flawed because of the inherent problems in all narrative reviews, namely, double counting studies, and the subjective nature of narrative reviews. The flaw has been that reviews have focused on a few important variables, race and gender, and not on a more comprehensive view.
This dissertation seeks to expand upon the current state of correlates of decision-making research by conducting a meta-analysis to examine decision making across the system, specifically, arrest, sentencing, and parole revocation. Results indicated that several variables are important at multiple stages of the criminal justice system. These predictors are both legal and extra-legal variables, legal predictors of decision-making included seriousness of the offense, and the offender’s prior criminal record, while extra-legal predictors of decision-making included race, gender, and ethnicity. These findings were not mitigated by moderating factors, but instead persisted across moderator categories. In addition to system-wide correlates, there were several factors, which were unique to a specific decision point, these included, at arrest, suspect demeanor, and, at sentencing, mode of conviction.