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June 11, 2023

US Sentencing Commission releases FY 2023 second quarter sentencing data

Last week, the US Sentencing Commission released on its website this latest quarterly data report setting forth the "2nd Quarter Release, Preliminary Fiscal Year 2023 Data Through March 31, 2023."  These new data suggest that persisting impacts of COVID era developments are still echoing through federal sentencing caseloads.  For example, as reflected in Figure 2 of this data report, while the year prior to the pandemic averaged roughly 20,000 federal sentencings per quarter, the "new normal" now seems to be 16,000 total federal cases sentenced each quarter (with a decline in immigration cases primarily accounting for the decrease in overall cases sentenced).

As I have noted before, the other big COVID era trend was a historically large percentage of below-guideline variances being granted, and this trend has now extended over the last 11 quarters of official USSC data (as detailed in Figures 3 and 4).  I suspect this trend is just another facet of the different caseload and case mix.  Over the last two quarters, the official data show that only 42.7% of all federal sentences are being imposed "Within Guideline Range."  This number is not historically low, but it continues the modern statistical reality that considerably more federal sentences are imposed outside the guideline range (for a wide array of reasons) than are imposed inside the range.

Among other interesting data and stories within the data, I continue to be struck by the data on drug sentencing reflected in Figures 11 and 12.  These figures show, for the latest two quarters, that nearly 47% of all federal drug sentencings involved methamphetamine and that the fentanyl caseload has recently grown considerably.  (In FY 21, less than 10% of the drug sentencing caseload involved fentanyl; for the first half of FY 23, the fentanyl caseload is over 16%.) Still, the average sentence for all the meth cases is over eight years in prison, whereas the average for all the other drugs is under six years.  As I have put it before, the federal "war on drugs" these days is much more focused upon, and imposes longer prison sentencing upon, meth defendants than anyone else. 

June 11, 2023 at 08:24 PM | Permalink


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