« Should we be linking nationwide crime spikes to heroin addiction and the black market it is driving? | Main | New draft article, "De-Policing," seems to provide empirical support for "Ferguson effect" claims »

April 8, 2016

Latest USSC retroctivity data suggest prison savings approaching $2 billion from drugs-2 guideline amendment retroactivity

The US Sentencing Commission's website has this new document titled simply "2014 Drug Guidelines Amendment Retroactivity Data Report." This report, dated April 2016, provides "information concerning motions for a reduced sentence pursuant to the retroactive application of Amendment 782.  The data in this report reflects all motions decided through March 25, 2016 and for which court documentation was received, coded, and edited at the Commission by March 29, 2016."

The official data in the report indicate that, thanks to the USSC's decision to make its "drugs -2" guideline amendment retroactive, now 26,850 federal prisoners have had their federal drug prison sentences reduced by an average of two years.  So, using my typical (conservative) estimate of each extra year of imprisonment for federal drug offenders costing on average $35,000, the USSC's decision to make its "drugs -2" guideline amendment retroactive so far appears to be on track to save federal taxpayers around $1.9 billion dollars.  

As I have said before and will say again in this context, kudos to the US Sentencing Commission for providing at least some evidence that at least some government bureaucrats inside the Beltway will sometimes vote to reduce the size and costs of the federal government.  Perhaps more importantly, especially as federal statutory sentencing reforms remained stalled in Congress and as Prez Obama continues to be cautious in his use of his clemency power, this data provides still more evidence that the work of the US Sentencing Commission in particular and of the federal judiciary in general remains the most continuously important and consequential force influencing federal prison populations and sentencing outcomes.

April 8, 2016 at 08:57 AM | Permalink


Hmmmm. You don't factor in the crimes committed by this cohort--the amount of costs to re-prosecute etc.

Posted by: federalist | Apr 8, 2016 4:24:11 PM

I also do not factor in, federalist, the federal income taxes to be paid by this cohort if/when they start earning income, nor the federal welfare benefits received or saved if members of this cohort become eligible for them or help others not need them, and so on and so on.... As the title of this post suggests, all I sought to do in this post is calculate in the most ballpark of ways expected "prison savings."

Posted by: Doug B. | Apr 9, 2016 3:51:29 PM

As if their income taxes will be significant. And I get it--incarcerating people reduces their contribution to society--but touting one-way savings is intellectually dishonest.

Posted by: federalist | Apr 11, 2016 12:30:11 PM

Post a comment

In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB