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March 27, 2009

US Sentencing Commission to conduct a data and research conference in May

I just noticed on the US Sentencing Commission's website this very exciting news: "The United States Sentencing Commission will present a data and research conference in Washington, D.C. on May 5-7, 2009."  This link provides these additional details:

This conference will help researchers use Commission data by demonstrating how to find and access Commission’s data and research as well as providing instructional help in working with the Commission’s individual offender datafiles.  The conference will be held in the Federal Judicial Center Auditorium of the Thurgood Marshall Federal Judiciary Building in Washington, D.C. near Union Station and Capitol Hill.

The conference will provide attendees with an indepth understanding of how the Commission’s individual offender data is assembled, including how the data is collected from documents submitted to the Commission and how the data is checked for accuracy.  Commission staff will also provide training on how to use specific fields within the datafile and will discuss special problems in using federal sentencing data.  The conference will also highlight recent research by Commission staff using Commission data.  The conference schedule is available at http://www.ussc.gov/DataConf/Schedule.htm.

This is fantastic news about a much-needed (and long-overdue) effort by the US Sentencing Commission to help researchers of all stripes take advantage of all the amazing data and information that the USSC has collected and coded over the last two decades.  And the official schedule suggests that both data junkies and data neophytes like me should be able to learn a lot at this important and timely event.

March 27, 2009 at 10:02 AM | Permalink


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I would like to know if recent victimization data for 2007 to 2009 has become available. That is the sole data with any validation effect.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Mar 27, 2009 2:16:35 PM

Have prosecutors been deterred in their plea offers? Have prosecutors been filing higher level charges to compensate for the decrease in sentences? Although all guidelines are advisory now, how does one explain that for every above guideline sentence there are 20 below guideline? Has the median sentence gotten shorter in any locality? Has the murder rate increased after that shortening, the general crime rate?

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Mar 27, 2009 2:20:04 PM

Prof. Berman: Do not worry about statistical knowledge. You can acquire basics with sophistication fairly easily, or ask experts for their opinions about data, and get neutral analysis in regular language.

Here is the real question. Should laws be scientific? If you enact a law prohibiting witchcraft, should you prove that witchcraft exists, causes a harm? Should you then prove that burning, rich, propertied people at the stake, and seizing their properties for the Church has a benefit of actually reducing witchcraft?

You may say, witchcraft, what an extreme example of ridiculous law making. However, just about all laws are as anti-scientific and as ridiculous as that one. You should be thinking about the larger question of what is scientific and should the law become scientific? Right now, it is mass human experimentation without pilot data, without informed consent as to consequences, without follow up data, without ability to change the experiment when it fails.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Mar 27, 2009 4:46:51 PM

I am the mother of a son who went to trial for a marijuana violation and was forced to use a court appointed attorney who did not have any idea what she was doing. As a result he lost his case and was sentenced under mandatory minimum for a total of thirty-eight (38) years. A perfectly decent non-violent family man. His appeals were useless, we spent borrowed money for nothing, the attorney let a deadline pass and we were told that nothing could be done for him due to her failure to file the proper papers on time.

Posted by: Rachel Alburtis | Apr 19, 2009 11:42:12 PM

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