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Alabama Sentencing Simulation Model, 1998-2003

Resource Type
Dataset : administrative records data
  • Speir, John (Alabama Sentencing Commission)
  • Flynt, Lynda (Alabama Sentencing Commission)
  • Wright, Bennet (Alabama Sentencing Commission)
  • Morrison, Melisa (Alabama Sentencing Commission)
Other Title
  • Archival Version (Subtitle)
Publication Date
Funding Reference
  • United States Department of Justice. Office of Justice Programs. National Institute of Justice
Free Keywords
corrections; judicial decisions; judicial process; sentence review; sentencing; sentencing guidelines; simulation models
  • Abstract

    Prior to 2003, the State of Alabama had no formal methodology to forecast prison populations, including a simulation model or statistical time-series and forecasting methods. Instead, the Alabama Department of Corrections relied on percent growth models, using the existing prison population to forecast future statewide prison populations. As Alabama moved toward a structured sentencing system, more precision was needed to investigate the impact statewide sentencing reform would have on the prison population. Adding to the need for more precise forecast methods, the Alabama Sentencing Commission intended to incorporate Virginia worksheet-style sentencing guidelines into its sentencing reform efforts. The Virginia sentencing guidelines uses offender and offense factors identified with statistical models and weights to guide sentence recommendations. Alabama require an analytical tool to guide the Commission during development of such a complicated sentencing system. To shepherd this process, the simulation model development project was undertaken which consisted of three phases;The development of a baseline projection of current practices for later comparison with projections made following implementation of the sentencing standards;; Incorporating the initial sentencing standards into the simulation model; and; Integrating disparate modules together into a user-friendly model interface.;
  • Abstract

    Three principal objectives were defined:Develop a simulation model that can support two sentencing models simultaneously. As a voluntary system, some judges may embrace the sentencing standards while others will continue sentencing under the legacy system.; Develop a simulation model that accommodates Virginia-style judicial worksheet sentence recommendations where worksheet points and scores are translated into structured sentence recommendations.; Identify the optimal mix of prison/non-prison recommendations, worksheet factor points, and sentencing ranges to guarantee that violent and sex offenders spend more time in prison, while also making the overall system bed-space neutral.;
  • Abstract

    Microsimulation is designed to mimic the flow of offender populations over the course of a specified time frame. This is achieved by culling historical data and reviewing trends in the criminal justice system, while adjusting the underlying assumptions of the model. Microsimulation enables users to test "what if" scenarios by altering actual or proposed policy and practice changes that influence the path of individuals through the criminal justice system. The Alabama Sentencing Commission's decision to use a mircosimulation model to project correctional populations was based on the model's flexibility in incorporating anticipated changes; the Commission's access to accurate, detailed individual offender records; and the ability to incorporate core assumptions.The development of the simulation model was undertaken in a three-stage process. The first stage involved the development of a baseline projection of current practices for later comparison with projections made following implementation of the sentencing standards. The second stage incorporated the initial sentencing standards into the simulation model; and the third stage integrated disparate modules together into a user friendly model interface. Banks, Carson, and Nelson (1996) recommend a specific algorithm to follow when building simulation models, which has become the de facto industry standard to design and build simulation models. This algorithm served as the outline for the development of the Alabama Sentencing Simulation Model. Refer to the Final Report beginning on page 27 for a discussion on each step in the design process.
  • Abstract

    Dataset 1 (General Information Table: 35 variables and 189,570 cases) includes information on the inmate's race, education level, family status, military service, and employment status. Dataset 2 (Inmate Table: 93 variables and 76,718 cases) includes information on the inmate's incarceration including admission type, total sentence length to serve, minimum release date, maximum release date, good time credit, and institutional placement.Dataset 3 (Initial Sentence Table: 44 variables and 369,908 cases) includes a record for each sentence per incarceration per inmate. For each sentence record, this dataset includes the specific offense information for each incarceration, sentence length for each incarceration, county of conviction, and if this inmate is a habitual offender. Dataset 4 (Transfer Leave Table: 31 variables and 991,266 cases) contains a record for every movement the inmate makes within the correctional system.Dataset 5 (AOC Cohort Data: 128 variables and 74,691 cases) includes arrest date, filing date, indictment date, offense literal, offense classification, court action and action date, sentence date, begin date of the sentence, sentence imposed, probation imposed, and court ordered programs. Dataset 6 (Arrest Records Data: 14 variables and 64,281 cases) includes offender sex, race, National Crime Information Center (NCIC) offense code at arrest and at conviction, arrest data, charged date, offense literal, and disposition code at conviction. Dataset 7 (Pardons and Paroles Data: 36 variables and 232,183 cases) includes offender race and sex, youthful offender status, sex offender status, conviction offense, status code, prison sentence length, probation sentence length, supervision level, date of sentence and date of probation, date and totals of fees paid.Dataset 8 (Personal Crime Sentencing Worksheet Data: 93 variables and 2,569 cases), Dataset 9 (Drug Crime Sentencing Worksheet Data: 105 variables and 1,956 cases), and Dataset 10 (Property Crime Sentencing Worksheet Data: 92 variables and 1,093 cases) include variables on the most serious offense, degree of the offender's participation, gang related activity, weapons used, number of victims and victims' injuries, property taken, drug types and amounts, number of prior convictions, prior probation sentences and revocations, number of parole revocations, number of prior incarcerations, offenders marital status, highest grade completed, employment and legal status, history of drug, alcohol, mental health or domestic violence problems, and history of treatment for drug, alcohol, mental health or domestic violence problems.
  • Methods

  • Methods

    ICPSR data undergo a confidentiality review and are altered when necessary to limit the risk of disclosure. ICPSR also routinely creates ready-to-go data files along with setups in the major statistical software formats as well as standard codebooks to accompany the data. In addition to these procedures, ICPSR performed the following processing steps for this data collection: Standardized missing values.; Checked for undocumented or out-of-range codes..
  • Methods

    Presence of Common Scales: None
  • Methods

    Response Rates: Not applicable.
  • Table of Contents


    • DS0: Study-Level Files
    • DS1: General Information Table
    • DS2: Inmate Table
    • DS3: Initial Sentence Table
    • DS4: Transfer Leave Table
    • DS5: AOC Cohort Data
    • DS6: Arrest Record Data
    • DS7: Pardons and Paroles Data
    • DS8: Personal Crime Sentencing Worksheet Data
    • DS9: Drug Crime Sentencing Worksheet Data
    • DS10: Property Crime Sentencing Worksheet Data
Temporal Coverage
  • 1970 / 2003
    Time period: 1970--2003
  • 1998-10 / 2003-09
    Collection date: 1998-10--2003-09
Geographic Coverage
  • Alabama
  • United States
Sampled Universe
All persons convicted and sentenced within the Alabama court system and all persons admitted and released from the Alabama Department of Corrections between 1970 and 2003. Smallest Geographic Unit: county
Not applicable.
Collection Mode
  • record abstracts

    Users of this data are encouraged to refer to the Final Report for more information on the construction of the Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) cohort. The Final Report can be found at the National Criminal Justice Reference Service (NCJRS) Web site with the NCJ number 225390. A link to the final report is also included in the "Related Publications" page associated with this study.

Funding insitution(s): United States Department of Justice. Office of Justice Programs. National Institute of Justice (2004-DD-BX-1014).
One or more files in this study are not available for download due to special restrictions; consult the study documentation to learn more on how to obtain the data.
Alternative Identifiers
  • 34671 (Type: ICPSR Study Number)
  • Is previous version of
    DOI: 10.3886/ICPSR34671.v1
  • Speir, John, Flynt, Lynda, Wright, Bennet. The Alabama Sentencing Commission: Data Analysis and Simulation Enhancement Congressional Grant. NCJ 225390, Alabama Sentencing Commission [producer], United States Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, National Institute of Justice [distributor]. 2008.
    • ID: (URL)
  • Speir, John, Flynt, Lynda, Wright, Bennett. Alabama Sentencing Commission: Data Analysis and Simulation Enhancement. Congressional Grant.NCJ 225390, Washington, DC: United States Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice. 2008.
    • ID: (URL)

Update Metadata: 2015-08-05 | Issue Number: 6 | Registration Date: 2015-06-16

Speir, John; Flynt, Lynda; Wright, Bennet; Morrison, Melisa (2014): Alabama Sentencing Simulation Model, 1998-2003. Archival Version. Version: v0. ICPSR - Interuniversity Consortium for Political and Social Research. Dataset.