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October 20, 2005

Another set of (limited) post-Booker data from the USSC

I just discovered that another new batch of post-Booker sentencing data is now available at this link over at the US Sentencing Commission's Booker webpage. This latest USSC post-Booker sentencing update includes all cases sentenced by close-of-business on September 30, 2005, and the cumulative data now cover over 41,500 cases.  From a quick review, the latest numbers continue the basic stories that emerged from the data released over the summer (details here and here, commentary here). 

Though I am pleased to see the USSC continuing to update the basic Booker numbers, I think it is time for the Commission to start adding more flesh to the bare data bones of its periodic reports.  As I explained in this recent post, cumulative and even circuit-by-circuit within-guideline data provide only a superficial view of post-Booker realities.  District-by-district data and data on the extent of departures and variances are essential for a true understanding of federal sentencing after Booker.  I was disappointed (though not really surprised) that the USSC's latest numbers do not provide any of the items detailed on my Booker data wish list.

Moreover, because even the basic post-Booker data are easily mis-understood and because there is a growing Booker fix buzz, I think it is essential for the USSC to start providing some accompanying commentary along with its data reports.  An enduring and important mystery in the data is why average and median sentence lengths are actually rising (especially in drug cases) post-Booker even though there are more below-guideline sentences now than pre-Booker.  (My guess is that a change in the case mix accounts for this surprising development, but only the USSC has the raw data to explain what is really going on.)

October 20, 2005 at 01:38 AM | Permalink

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