Sunday, August 5, 2012

DOJ Calls for Statistical Study of Pardons

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), Office of Justice Programs (OJP), Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) is pleased to announce that it is seeking applications for "data collection, coding, statistical analysis, and reporting writing services for an examination of Presidential Pardons." More specifically, the study will "focus of the statistical examination described in the solicitation is exclusively on the processing of pardon petitions" and the source of data and information for the proposed statistical examination are "the individual petition files of the Pardon Attorney."

The DOJ's call also identifies the following "Goals and Objectives" 1) The development of a conceptual model of the Office of the Pardon Attorney (OPA) deliberative process 2) The identification of the pardon applications included in the statistical examination and the access to the relevant OPA files for review. 3) A statistical examination of approximately 1,000 pardon petitions that were granted and a stratified random sample of approximately 3,700 petitions that were either denied or closed without Presidential action, stratified by year of disposition 4) The development and testing of a coding scheme for the information to be obtained from the Pardon Attorneys’ files that address the five principal factors taken into account by the Pardon Attorney - and specific testing of the hypothesis that all other things being equal African Americans and other minorities are less likely to progress in the pardon adjudication process than applicants of other races and 4) The development of a publishable quality final report describing the methodology, data collection, coding, modeling, statistical analyses, and hypothesis testing.

We find it notable that the project "will be guided by BJS and a group of knowledgeable advisors designated by the Office of the Pardon Attorney through regular (at least bi-weekly) meetings and discussions."

Who will these "advisors" be? What background, specific knowledge and expertise will they bring to the table? Will inside the belt-way connections and bureaucratic experience be all that fuels the enterprise?  Will this be still yet another exercise in barefoot empiricism, completely disconnected from (if not outright oblivious to) the vast literature (statistical and otherwise) that has been produced by political scientists?

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