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April 9, 2013

Guest post on federal sentencing data and costs of incarceration for child porn offenses

Average fed sentencesExperienced lawyer and federal sentencing guru Mark Allenbaugh (firm website here) sent me this "accounting" of the latest year-end federal sentencing data:

"Yesterday, the U.S. Sentencing Commission published its Annual Report to Congress, and Sourcebook of Federal Sentencing Statistics for fiscal year 2012.  Increasingly, this part of the Commission’s work is becoming of central importance to its mission.  Indeed, the stats reveal something rather startling, if not outright shocking, about the cost of incarceration. 

"Since United States v. Booker, the federal government has spent nearly $30 BILLION on incarceration, which exceeds the GDP of many countries including North Korea.  Of this, over $2 BILLION was spent on incarcerating child pornography offenders; 12,115 have been sentenced (not all to imprisonment, but most) under the guidelines since 2006.  What makes this rather startling is looking at other major offense categories.  For example, in the same period of time, over four times as many people have been sentenced for fraud offenses (54,813), however, the total cost of incarcerating those individuals was almost a billion dollars LESS!  ($2.1 billion for child pornography; $1.3 billion for fraud).  In other words, incarcerating 12,115 child pornography offenders cost the public fisc $2.1 billion, while incarcerating nearly 55,000 fraud offenders cost (only) $1.3 billion.

"So, why the big difference in cost?  Easy.  The increasingly longer sentences imposed on child pornography offender than for any other major offense category.  What that translates into is that the actual annual cost per offender is far higher for child pornography offenders than for any other major offense category.  We spend nearly $25,000 incarcerating child pornography offenders than fraud offenders, who cost only $3,500 per year.  Fraud is comparatively cheap because a substantial number do not receive any term of incarceration, and those that do often serve less than a year.  Here is a chart showing the AVERAGE sentences over the past 6 years for all major offense categories.  A quick glance shows how out of the ordinary child pornography offenses are, or more accurately, how obscenely out of whack they are.

"After spending $2 Billion over the last six years, it’s far past time to rein in this madness.  The Commission’s recent report on Federal Child Pornography Offenses effectively disavowing the sentencing guideline for non-production offenses is an enormous leap in the right direction.  We simply cannot afford to continue being fiscally foolish on child pornography sentencing; these data put the magnitude of the madness in sharp relief.  Hopefully Congress acts quickly to grant the Commission’s wish to have 'enact legislation providing the Commission with express authority to amend the current guideline provisions that were promulgated pursuant to specific congressional directives or legislation directly amending the guidelines.'

"[NOTE ON CALCULATION METHODS: the statistics were derived from table 13 and the BOP’s recent cost of incarceration estimate from FY 2012.  I simply took the total number sentenced each year (06-12), multiplied that by the MEDIAN sentence in months from each (to be conservative in my estimate; the mean or average would have resulted in much higher figures) and divided that by 12 to get the number of “Inmate Years” for a category.  I then multiplied the Inmate Years by $26,359, which is the average annual cost of incarceration per BOP.  This gives you the Total Cost FY06-12 for a category, e.g. $2,118,989,027 for Child Porn.  The Total Sentenced FY 06-12 is just exactly what it says.  Per Inmate, Per Year Cost is just the total cost divided by the total sentenced, then that number divided by 7 (7 years inclusive of FY2006-2012).]"

April 9, 2013 at 04:27 PM | Permalink

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Comments

$2 billion over six years? Under Obama, that's practically a rounding error.

Posted by: Anon | Apr 9, 2013 4:34:09 PM

Sad thing is that it's not suprise. the govt fucktards who have run this country the last 60 years or so have pretty much hit every stupid ideal outthere. So why not here too!

Posted by: rodsmith | Apr 9, 2013 11:30:04 PM

What is the actual cost saving for psychological treatment on the children who were not abused while these scum have been locked away? Not all of these offenders that are in the calculations are simple possession offenders that the people on this blog have such a great affection for, the longest sentences are for offenders who actually produce pornography. I have no problem sleeping at night and using my tax dollars to protect our children! Seems like a wise use of dollars to me!

Posted by: Kelly | Apr 10, 2013 4:34:29 PM

It is about time that someone has brought to light just how ridiculous the existing terms of incarceration for viewing child pornography are. It is equally shocking to know just how ignorant the general public is about this crime and those individuals accused and convicted of it. Most of those convicted of this crime are first time, non-violent offenders with no propensity to molest our children, much less produce this kind of material. In many cases, actual molesters get lighter sentences and producers of child porn are rarely caught, much less convicted. I am totally convinced that with all of the technology in today's world, we should be able to find a more economical and productive way to deal with this and other non-violent social crimes.

Posted by: Monte | Apr 11, 2013 8:40:10 AM

kelly 2 thumbs down - monte 4 thumbs up

Posted by: observer | Apr 11, 2013 5:34:03 PM

Kelly, The US Sentencing Commission has released a report that speaks to this. Your opinion is valid, but consider that a prosecuting attorney expects to win less than half of child molestation cases compared to 95% for child pornography.

I commend the police work for things like keeping sex offenders inside during Halloween. It's harder to commend the legislators who enacted the laws based off of the support that the public offers them when they're terrified for their children's safety. Statistics show that laws that restrict living and proximity to areas such as natural parks are ineffective.

Spending money on ineffective methods is nothing new. However, consider that the largest danger comes from people that are in a position of trust. Every child should be told about trust danger along with stranger danger- and this isn't a job for the government.

If you want to protection from child pornography, send a letter to congress to use the forensic technology to include the database of obscene material in an anti-virus program like Norton Insight. But be warned that the companies that produce the forensic software and ankle monitors might fight such developments unless they get paid well.

Sleeping at night is a potential pitfall, as these limited resources are not necessarily protecting our children but instead giving parents a false sense of security. Parents are the solution here, and they need to be informed of empirical evidence.

Be informed

Posted by: food for thought | May 2, 2013 11:33:54 PM

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