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June 21, 2022

US Sentencing Commission releases another report on "Length of Incarceration and Recidivism"

A few years ago, as noted in this blog post, the US Sentencing Commission released a report titled "Length of Incarceration and Recidivism."  Today, the USSC has issued another report under the same title, and this webpage provides an overview and key findings:

Overview

This study, the seventh in the recidivism series, examines the relationship between length of incarceration and recidivism. In 2020, the Commission published its initial comprehensive study on length of incarceration and recidivism.  In that study, which examined offenders released in 2005, the Commission found that federal offenders receiving sentences of more than 60 months were less likely to recidivate compared to a similar group of offenders receiving shorter sentences.  This study replicates the prior analysis, however, it examines a more current cohort of federal offenders released in 2010.  This study examines the relationship between length of incarceration and recidivism, specifically exploring three potential relationships that may exist: incarceration as having a deterrent effect, a criminogenic effect, or no effect on recidivism.

This study examines 32,135 federal offenders who satisfied the following criteria:

  • United States citizens;
  • Re-entered the community during 2010 after discharging their sentence of incarceration or by commencing a term of probation;
  • Not reported dead, escaped, or detained;
  • Have valid FBI numbers which could be located in criminal history repositories (in at least one state, the District of Columbia, or federal records).

Key Findings

  • The results of this study, examining federal offenders released in 2010, are almost identical to the findings established in prior Commission research examining federal offenders released in 2005.  In both studies, the odds of recidivism were lower for federal offenders sentenced to more than 60 months incarceration compared to a matched group of offenders receiving shorter sentences.
  • The odds of recidivism were approximately 29 percent lower for federal offenders sentenced to more than 120 months incarceration compared to a matched group of federal offenders receiving shorter sentences.
  • The odds of recidivism were approximately 18 percent lower for offenders sentenced to more than 60 months up to 120 months incarceration compared to a matched group of federal offenders receiving shorter sentences.
  • For federal offenders sentenced to 60 months or less incarceration, the Commission did not find any statistically significant differences in recidivism.

June 21, 2022 at 09:43 PM | Permalink

Comments

What a stupid “report.”

Gee, could this be because those in for crimes getting a sentence under 60 months were in for less serious crimes? Or they were in for a one off crime rather than those getting stiffer sentences because they were already repeat offenders?

We pay people to write such garbage?

Posted by: TarlsQtr | Jun 22, 2022 7:13:46 AM

Did you read the methodology section (pp. 8 to 14) of the report, Tarls? In that section, I think the USSC researchers are claiming they have controlled for these kinds of matters and more, but I lack statistic expertise to assess whether the explanation is compelling to control for obvious factors like age, gender, criminal history and offense seriousness.

I recall that the federal defenders were quite critical of the methodology used by the USSC in its 2020 version of this report, but their criticisms reinforced my sense that it is really, really hard to model these issues effectively. Adding to the challenge, of course, is the fact that some likely recidivism/criminogenic factors are very hard to work into any model such as whether an offender returns home to a loving family and/or a decent job and/or a neighborhood/community likely to encourage desistence from future crimes.

That all said, I would rather have my tax dollars spent on these kinds of challenging and important recidivism studies than on lots of other stuff the feds research.

Posted by: Doug B. | Jun 22, 2022 10:45:56 AM

Could anyone find what the recidivism figures actually are? Those would seem to be important numbers in a report like this, but I couldn't find them. What I'm looking for is something that would say in plain English, for example, "After one year of release, 30% of former inmates have been re-arrested. After five years, it's 60%, and after eight years it's 75%."

Is anything like that in this report? If not, it's a very odd omission.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jun 22, 2022 5:10:33 PM

Excellent and important point, Bill. I could not find the numbers you mention.

Posted by: Doug B. | Jun 23, 2022 10:10:38 AM

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