Sunday, May 19, 2024

Notable (and notably unclear) accounting of possible impact of retroactive application of new guideline amendments

The US Sentencing Commission has sent to Congress a handful of new guideline amendments that reduce the guideline range for some individuals (details here).  That means the USSC is statutorily required to decide whether these amendments should be applied retroactively to persons currently incarcerated.  Before a vote on retroactivity, the USSC staff typically prepares a retroactivity impact analysis to aid the USSC's deliberation over retroactivity, and this past Friday the USSC made public this 21-page document titled "Analysis of the Impact of Certain 2024 Guideline Amendments if Made Retroactive" (hereinafter "retroactivity memo").

The highest-profile amendment to be considered for retroactivity is on acquitted conduct, which redefines relevant conduct to exclude conduct for which the defendant was criminally charged and acquitted in federal court.  The retroactivity memo notes that the USSC staff estimated "that 1,971 persons currently incarcerated in the BOP were acquitted of one or more of the charges against them."  (Notably, that's not much more than 1% of the current federal prison population.)  But, as the retroactivity memo further explains, USSC research staff were "unable to determine whether and to what extent the courts may have relied upon any of the offense conduct related to the charge or charges for which the individual was acquitted in determining the guideline range; therefore, staff cannot estimate what portion of approximately 1,971 persons might benefit from retroactive application of the amendment."

I suspect only a limited percentage of persons who were acquitted of some charge could show that their guideline ranges were enhanced based on acquitted conduct.  But this reality, in my view, should make the Commission all that much more willing to have its new acquitted conduct guideline applied retroactively.  Though acquitted conduct guideline enhancements are relatively rare, those now serving prison time based on acquitted conduct ought to have a chance to argue for a reduced sentence.

Interesting, the retroactivity memo also details at length that all the other guideline amendments that might be made retroactive this year also have all sorts of data uncertainty regarding the reach of retroactivity.  Here is a cursory accounting drawn from the retroactivity memo: (a) one amendment restricting a 4-level enhancement applicable when a firearm's serial number of a firearm has been “altered or obliterated” could apply to as many as 1,452 current federal prisoners, but the amendment functions so that USSC "staff cannot determine in which of the 1,452 cases" might be impacted by the amendment"; (b) another amendment concerning the grouping rules for firearm offenses could impact "102 cases that met the criteria" of the new guideline, but the fact-specific nature of the grouping rules [meant] staff cannot determine with precision the cases in which the grouping rules might have been applied in a manner inconsistent with the amendment"; (c) another amendment to restrict how the drug guidelines should be calculated could impact "538 of those persons [who] were sentenced using a Base Offense Level" a certain way, but "staff cannot determine in which of the 538 cases the court may have applied a BOL" this way.

Long story short, it is clear that not very many current federal prisoners could possibly be impacted by making new guidelines retroactive (likely less than 2% of the current BOP population), but it is actually quite unclear if any significant number of current prisoners would benefit.  Whether and how these small numbers and the data uncertainty might impact the Commission's retroactivity decision remains to be seen.

May 19, 2024 in Data on sentencing, Detailed sentencing data, Federal Sentencing Guidelines, Sentences Reconsidered, Who Sentences | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 15, 2024

Prison Policy Initiative releases new briefing with new data and visuals on modern jail growth

Emily Widra of the Prison Policy Initiative has authored tbis new briefing titled "New data and visualizations spotlight states’ reliance on excessive jailing."  The subtitle provides context: "We've updated the data tables and graphics from our 2017 report to show just how little has changed in our nation's overuse of jails: too many people are locked up in jails, most detained pretrial and many of them are not even under local jurisdiction."   Here is how the report starts (with links from the original, but footnotes omitted):

One out of every three people behind bars is being held in a local jail, yet jails get almost none of the attention that prisons do. In 2017, we published an in-depth analysis of local jail populations in each state: Era of Mass Expansion: Why State Officials Should Fight Jail Growth. We paid particular attention to the various drivers of jail incarceration — including pretrial practices and holding people in local jails for state and federal authorities — and we explained how jails impact our entire criminal legal system and millions of lives every year. In the years since that publication, many states have passed reforms aimed at reducing jail populations, but we still see the same trends playing out: too many people are confined in local jails, and the reasons for their confinement do not justify the overwhelming costs of our nation’s reliance on excessive jailing.

People cycle through local jails more than 7 million times each year and they are generally held there for brief, but life-altering, periods of time. Most are released in a few hours or days after their arrest, but others are held for months or years, often because they are too poor to make bail. Fewer than one-third of the 663,100 people in jails on a given day have been convicted and are likely serving short sentences of less than a year, most often for misdemeanors.  Jail policy is therefore in large part about how people who are legally innocent are treated, and how policymakers think our criminal legal system should respond to low-level offenses.

April 15, 2024 in Data on sentencing, Detailed sentencing data, Prisons and prisoners, Scope of Imprisonment | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 11, 2024

"State Sentencing Reforms Had Little Impact on Racial Disparities in Imprisonment, Analysis Finds"

The title of this post is the the title of this new press release from the Council on Criminal Justice (CCJ) discussing the latest findings of research it has been conducting looking at incarceration disparities.  Here is part of the press release, with lnks from the original providing access to the underlying research:

The Black-White disparity in imprisonment has narrowed substantially over the past 20 years but very little of the progress can be attributed to state sentencing reforms, according to a series of reports released today by the Council on Criminal Justice (CCJ).

Following on previous analyses that documented a 40% drop in the Black-White imprisonment disparity between 2000 and 2020, researchers at CCJ, Georgia State University, and the Crime and Justice Institute examined more than 700 statutes adopted in 12 states between 2010 and 2020, seeking to understand how sentencing reforms might have influenced the reduction.  Laws included for study related to violent, property, and drug crimes, as well as parole release and technical violation practices.  The study states (Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah) varied by region, demographic composition, sentencing structure, and the political party in power.

With minor exceptions, the analysis found that the sentencing reforms had negligible impacts on reducing racial disparities, and instead largely codified changes to enforcement, policing, charging, and sentencing practices that had occurred before the laws were enacted. In addition, many sentencing law changes that took effect during the study period addressed fairly infrequent crimes and therefore had a minimal effect on disparity. 

The findings suggest that factors beyond sentencing laws were mostly responsible for the Black-White imprisonment disparity declining from 8.2-to-1 in 2000 to 4.9-to-1 in 2020. Though the study did not statistically assess alternative explanations, the authors offered several other possible reasons for the shrinking disparity, including changes in policing practices, drug use (from cocaine to opioids), how drugs are sold (from open-air markets to the use of GPS-equipped smartphones), and the types of crimes people commit (from burglary to cybercrime, for example)....

The 12-state analysis is part of a sweeping package on racial disparities released by CCJ’s Pushing Toward Parity project. It includes an in-depth look at the legislative changes in each of the 12 study states as well as two reports examining disparities in imprisonment through other lenses.

One analysis examined state imprisonment disparities between Hispanic and non-Hispanic White people.  It found that disparity in imprisonment rates declined during the first two decades of the century, but that the precise size of the drop is unclear because of a conflict between data sources. In 2020, data collected from state corrections departments showed a Hispanic-White disparity ratio of 1.5-to-1; data from a federal prison survey, however, produced a ratio that was 2.7-to-1, or 80% larger. 

The gap in disparity ratios derived from each source has increased over time.  In 2000, the two disparity ratios were roughly equivalent, but by 2020 the federal data disparity ratio was 80% larger.  The measurement gap stems from how race and ethnicity are recorded and classified in each source.  The choice of measurement method makes a large difference in the projected achievement of parity: if current trends continue, the Hispanic-White disparity measure drawn from state data would reach parity by about 2026, while the measure from federal data would reach parity about 30 years later.

Another analysis focused on disparities in female prison populations. It found that state imprisonment disparity between Black and White women fell by 71% between 2000 and 2020, decreasing from 6.3-to-1 to 1.8-to-1 and exceeding the drop for men.  The decline was driven by a 56% decline in the imprisonment rate for Black women and a 57% increase for White women.  Hispanic-White female imprisonment rate disparity also fell (by 56%) over the two-decade period, data from state corrections departments showed; it has been at or below parity since 2010 and reached 0.7-to-1 in 2020, meaning that White women were more likely to be imprisoned than Hispanic women.

Female imprisonment disparity fell across violent, property, and drug offense categories, with the largest drop recorded for drug crimes.  From 2000 to 2020, Black-White drug offense imprisonment disparity among women dropped from 8 to 0.6, reaching parity in 2016.  Hispanic-White drug offense imprisonment disparity fell from 2.4 in 2000 to 0.5 in 2020. Changes in the demographic composition of prison admissions drove the trends.  From 2000 to 2019, admissions decreased 47% for Black females, increased 15% for Hispanic females, and rose 138% for White females. 

April 11, 2024 in Data on sentencing, Detailed sentencing data, Race, Class, and Gender, Scope of Imprisonment, State Sentencing Guidelines | Permalink | Comments (26)

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Lots of notable new items on the US Sentencing Commission's website including geographic FY 2023 sentencing data

Though we are still a week away from hearing from the US Sentencing Commission about possible new amendments to the US Sentencing Guidelines, I noted that the Commission has updated its website with a bunch of new items that seemed worth flagging.  These are drawn from the new items scroll from the USSC website homepage:

TRAINING SESSIONS ARCHIVE (April 8, 2024)

You can now explore an archive of the Commission's recorded training sessions. Use the filters within the archive to find the training session that meets your specific needs. Learn More

PROBLEM-SOLVING COURTS PODCAST MINISERIES (April 9, 2024)

In this podcast miniseries, Commission staff chat with the federal judges who lead the problem-solving court programs available around the country. Parts One through Seven are out now!  Listen Here

FY23 GEOGRAPHIC SENTENCING DATA (April 8, 2024)

These data reports compare fiscal year 2023 sentencing statistics for each federal circuit, district, and state to the nation as a whole. Learn More

BASICS OF CRIMINAL HISTORY (April 8, 2024)

This updated eLearning module uses real-world scenarios to illustrate the basics of the criminal history rules as amended in 2023. Learn More

I find all the USSC's materials and content interesting, but my data nerdiness really gets hit by the data reports page with fiscal year 2023 sentencing statistics for each federal circuit, district, and state.  That page includes a US map that allows you to see that the border district of Maine had only 116 federal sentencings in FY 2023, whereas the border district of the Western District of Texas had 7,539 federal sentencings in FY 2023.  And that the District Utah had more federal sentencings in FY 2023 sentencings (761) than did New Jersey (723), even though New Jersey has nearly three times the overall population as Utah.  

April 10, 2024 in Data on sentencing, Detailed sentencing data, Federal Sentencing Guidelines, Who Sentences | Permalink | Comments (2)

Monday, April 01, 2024

Lots of (little?) news and updates from the US Sentencing Commission

This morning I received an email from the US Sentencing Commission with some items that seemed blogworthy:

Meeting Rescheduled

Notice of Public Meeting

The Commission has rescheduled its last public meeting of the 2023-2024 amendment year for April 17 at 1:30 pm (ET).  At the meeting, Commissioners may vote to promulgate amendments to the federal sentencing guidelines. The meeting will be held in the Thurgood Marshall Federal Judiciary Building and will be streamed live.

New Data

IDA and JSIN Updates

The Commission has updated the Interactive Data Analyzer (IDA) and Judiciary Sentencing Information (JSIN). IDA now offers a brand new section presenting information on the prior convictions of individuals sentenced in the federal system. Visitors can also explore new data by the economic crime subtypes found under §2B1.1.

As previously noted in this post, the USSC had initially scheduled its concluding public meeting of the 2023-2024 amendment cycle, which includes "Vote to Promulgate Proposed Amendments," for April 10.  But now we have to wait another week to see if we get a vote on an acquitted conduct amendment and perhaps others from the Commission.

In the meantime, federal sentencing data junkies have the USSC's FY24 First Quarterly Data Report to check out, and this is a "preliminary data report [that] reflects information received on individuals sentenced through the first quarter of fiscal year 2024 (October 1, 2023 through December 31, 2023)."  My too-quick review of the data suggested that there are not big surprises (save perhaps a little dip in the total number of cases sentenced).

April 1, 2024 in Data on sentencing, Detailed sentencing data, Federal Sentencing Guidelines, Who Sentences | Permalink | Comments (3)

Monday, March 25, 2024

US Sentencing Commissions publishes 2033 Annual Report and new retroactivity data on 2023 criminal history amendments

This afternoon, the US Sentencing Commission sent out an email that flagged a bunch of notable new materials on the USSC's website.  Data fans will be especially interested in a lot of these new items, which I link below.  But everyone should mark their calendars for April 10, 2024; the USSC has now created a key date though this Public Meeting Notice.  This will be the last scheduled public meeting of the 2023-2024 amendment cycle for the Commission and on the agenda is "Vote to Promulgate Proposed Amendments."  I am hoping an acquitted conduct amendment will be among those getting a positive vote from the Commission, but we will need to tune in on April 10 to see.

In the meantime, USSC and federal sentencing data junkies have some new items to check out, and here is how the USSC's email reports on these new materials:

(Published March 25, 2024) - The 2023 Annual Report highlights the Commission’s major activities and accomplishments during fiscal year 2023.  The Annual Report also includes a new in-depth analysis of federal sentencing trends and noteworthy shifts in the caseload.

(Published March 25, 2024) - The Commission has published its first analysis of motions for a reduced sentence pursuant to retroactive application of Parts A and B of Amendment 821, relating to Criminal History (effective November 1, 2023).

(Published March 25, 2024) - The Commission continues to release additional fiscal year 2023 federal sentencing data following publication of the 2023 Sourcebook of Federal Sentencing Statistics earlier this month.

March 25, 2024 in Data on sentencing, Detailed sentencing data, Federal Sentencing Guidelines, Who Sentences | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, March 21, 2024

"Misdemeanor Enforcement Trends in New York City, 2016–2022"

The title of this post is the title of this notable and lengthy new research report released today by the Brennan Center.  The report's homepage includes links to data and fact sheets and all sort of other interesting materials.  And the report's introduction highlights the importance of greater data gathering in this space, and here are a few paragraphs therefrom (with footnotes omitted):

When people think of the American criminal justice system, they think of prisons, lengthy sentences, and parole hearings. They also think of serious offenses such as murder, aggravated assault, and rape. But the majority of cases are less serious offenses, as defined in statute, including drug possession, shoplifting, gambling, public drunkenness, disorderly conduct, vandalism, speeding, simple assault, and driving with a suspended license.  For many Americans, minor offenses — that is, misdemeanors, violations, and infractions — are the primary entry point into the criminal justice system. Entanglement in this part of the system is anything but minor....

Despite its broad reach, the minor offense system is difficult to quantify.  Government officials often do not collect data on infractions, civil violations, and other offenses they consider too trivial to count. The data that is collected — typically data on misdemeanors — is likely an undercount.  Even so, in the United States, misdemeanors amount to roughly three-quarters of all criminal cases filed each year. Every day, tens of thousands of people are ticketed, arrested, or arraigned for a misdemeanor, making it a central feature of the United States’ crisis of overcriminalization and an engine of its overreliance on incarceration.

In recent years, scholars and legal practitioners have brought attention to the need to rein in the sprawling minor offense system.  Misdemeanor adjudication has earned a reputation of assembly-line justice that lacks meaningful public defense or due process protections.  Some researchers have described it as a means to mark and manage disadvantaged groups deemed potential risks, whereby the “process is punishment.” In addition to the degradation of arrest, the imposed obligations and sanctions — frequent court appearances, the opportunity cost of lost wages, fines and fees, collateral consequences of a criminal record, and even jail detention — are frequently disproportionate to the severity of the crime....

As concern about the minor offense system has grown, efforts to shrink it have proliferated.  At the same time, since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, many people in urban areas have perceived or experienced increased physical and social disorder in public spaces — petty theft, open drug use, public intoxication, people suffering mental health crises, homeless encampments, defacement of property, transit fare evasion, and public urination.  Petty and nuisance offenses, visible poverty, and public displays of disorderly and unpredictable behavior, coupled with high-profile media coverage of violent crimes and harassment, have renewed calls for stronger enforcement of lower-level offenses.

This report seeks to shed light on minor offense enforcement — what has changed in recent years, what has not, and what can be done to fix it.  Building on previous scholarship, it offers an updated national snapshot of the scale of misdemeanor cases filed between 2018 and 2021, highlighting changes over the Covid-19 pandemic.

March 21, 2024 in Data on sentencing, Detailed sentencing data, Offense Characteristics | Permalink | Comments (28)

Thursday, March 14, 2024

Prison Policy Initiative releases tenth edition of its flagship report, now "Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie 2024"

Pie2024-2XIt is pi day, which for the last decade has meant a special treat for sentencing fans and criminal justice data fans: the Prison Policy Initiative's latest, greatest version of its amazing incarceration "pie" graphic and associated report. The latest report "Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie 2024" provides a spectacular accounting of the particulars of who and how of incarceration in the United States. As I have said in the past, the extraordinary "pies" produced by PPI impart more information in a few images than just about any other single resource I know about (and this PPI press release has the main visual and other highlights). Here is part of this latest pie report's introductory text and  overview (links and format from the original):

The various government agencies involved in the criminal legal system collect a lot of data, but very little is designed to help policymakers or the public understand what’s going on. The uncertainty that results muddies the waters around our society’s use of incarceration, giving lawmakers and lobbyists the opportunity to advance harmful policies that do not make us safe. As criminal legal system reforms become increasingly central to political debate — and are even scapegoated to resurrect old, ineffective “tough on crime” policies — it’s more important than ever that we get the facts straight and understand the big picture.

Further complicating matters is the fact that the U.S. doesn’t have one criminal legal system; instead, we have thousands of federal, state, local, and tribal systems. Together, these systems hold over 1.9 million people in 1,566 state prisons, 98 federal prisons, 3,116 local jails, 1,323 juvenile correctional facilities, 142 immigration detention facilities, and 80 Indian country jails, as well as in military prisons, civil commitment centers, state psychiatric hospitals, and prisons in the U.S. territories — at a system-wide cost of at least $182 billion each year.

This report offers some much-needed clarity by piecing together the data about this country’s disparate systems of confinement. It provides a detailed look at where and why people are locked up in the U.S., and dispels some common myths about mass incarceration to focus attention on overlooked issues that urgently require reform....

While this pie chart provides a comprehensive snapshot of our correctional system, the graphic does not capture the enormous churn in and out of our correctional facilities, nor the far larger universe of people whose lives are affected by the criminal legal system. In 2022, about 469,000 people entered prison gates, but people went to jail more than 7 million times. Some have just been arrested and will make bail within hours or days, while many others are too poor to make bail and remain in jail until their trial. Only a small number (about 102,700 on any given day) have been convicted, and are generally serving misdemeanors sentences of under a year. At least 1 in 4 people who go to jail will be arrested again within the same year — often those dealing with poverty, mental illness, and substance use disorders, whose problems only worsen with incarceration.

March 14, 2024 in Data on sentencing, Detailed sentencing data, Prisons and prisoners, Scope of Imprisonment | Permalink | Comments (0)

US Sentencing Commission releases latest "compassionate release" data through Sept 2023

The US Sentencing Commission has now released its very latest data on sentence reduction motions on this webpage, which also includes additional graphics and context about court dispositions of what are typically known as "compassionate release" motions.  This Fiscal Year 2023 data run includes information through September 2023 (which is technically before the Commission's new guideline became law, but after it had been submitted to Congress).

As I have noted before, the long-term data going back to the height of the COVID pandemic period reveals, unsurprisingly, that we now see in FY 2023 many fewer sentence reduction motions filed or granted.  Though there are month-to-month variations, it would be roughly accurate to say that an average month of FY 2023 had a few dozen compassionate release motions granted and a few hundred of these motions denied nationwide.  In will be interesting to see if the relatively stable monthly patterns here change in any significant way in FY 2024 when the Commission's new guideline became the new law of the land (as of November 2023).

As I have noted before, among the striking stories in these data are the variations in application and grant rates from various districts.  As one example from the FY 2023 data, the Eastern District of Michigan granted half of a small number of sentence reduction motions (5 of only 10), whereas the Western District of Michigan granted none of a large number of sentence reduction motions (0 of only 60).  Similarly, the Northern District of Illinois granted nearly half of these motions in FY 2023 (13 of 27), whereas the Central and Southern District of Illinois each granted only one such motion out of a pool of 44 motions. 

There are all sorts of other interesting data points in this new report.  For example, it seems that a distinctively larger number of drug defendants secured sentencing reductions in FY 2023 (making up roughly 60% of the reduction grants while comprising only roughly 45% of the federal prison population).  Also, reasons reported by judges for granting these motions are also intriguing.

March 14, 2024 in Data on sentencing, Detailed sentencing data, Federal Sentencing Guidelines, Sentences Reconsidered, Who Sentences | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, March 05, 2024

US Sentencing Commission releases its 2023 Sourcebook of Federal Sentencing Statistics

I received via email this morning some exciting news for federal sentencing data nerds:

Today the U.S. Sentencing Commission released its 2023 Sourcebook of Federal Sentencing Statistics (covering October 1, 2022 through September 30, 2023).

The Sourcebook presents information on the 64,124 individuals sentenced in fiscal year 2023 — a federal caseload that held steady from the previous year.  The Sourcebook provides the public with a comprehensive and timely compilation of information received and analyzed by the Commission and collected from the 300,000+ sentencing documents submitted by the federal courts nationwide.

The Commission typically publishes its yearly Annual Report with its yearly Sourcebook, though the email I received indicted that this report would be forthcoming.  In future posts, I may try to mine some interesting factoids from the official FY2023 federal sentencing data, but I already noticed that it appears the number of sentencings in FY2023 (61,124) appears to be remarkably close to the sentencings completed in FY2022 (61,142 as reported in this prior post).

March 5, 2024 in Data on sentencing, Detailed sentencing data, Federal Sentencing Guidelines | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 12, 2024

US Sentencing Commission publishes two public data briefings to inform comments on some proposed guideline amendments

I was intrigued to discover that the US Sentencing Commission's website today announces "Data Briefings on Proposed Amendments" to announce the publishing of "supplemental data to inform public comment on recently proposed amendments relating to youthful individuals and simplification."  This webpage, in turn, links to two distinct briefing pages that are introduced this way:

Supplemental Data: 2024 Proposed Amendment Relating to Simplification

The Commission is seeking public comment on proposed amendments to the federal sentencing guidelines.  In order to further inform commenters, the charts below depict data relating to application of departure provisions other than §5K1.1 or §5K3.1 (either alone or in conjunction with §5K1.1 or §5K3.1), i.e., "Other Departure."

Public Data Briefing: 2024 Proposed Amendment Relating to Youthful Individuals

The Commission is seeking public comment on proposed amendments to the federal sentencing guidelines. Commission staff prepared a data presentation to inform public comment on a two-part proposed amendment related to youthful individuals. This briefing presents data on the impact of juvenile adjudications on criminal history scoring and sentencing outcomes to help inform public comment.

Disappointingly, the USSC has not yet published any detailed data concerning its proposed amendment to the Guidelines Manual that includes three options to address the use of acquitted conduct for purposes of determining a sentence.  I am not sure if the lack of data on this front bodes well or ill for guideline reforms on that front.

February 12, 2024 in Data on sentencing, Detailed sentencing data, Federal Sentencing Guidelines, Who Sentences | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Vera Institute produces big new report on "People on Electronic Monitoring"

The Vera Institute today released this lengthy new report, titled simply "People on Electronic Monitoring" and authored by Jess Zhang, Jacob Kang-Brown and Ari Kotler.  Here is the "Summary" that begins this 54-page report:

Electronic monitoring (EM) is a form of digital surveillance that tracks people’s physical location, movement, or other markers of behavior (such as blood alcohol level).  It is commonly used in the criminal legal system as a condition of pretrial release or post-conviction supervision — including during probation, parole, home confinement, or work release. The United States also uses electronic monitoring for people in civil immigration proceedings who are facing deportation.

This report fills a gap in understanding around the size and scope of EM use in the United States.  The Vera Institute of Justice’s (Vera) estimates reveal that, in 2021, 254,700 adults were under some form of EM.  Of these, 150,700 people were subjected to EM by the criminal legal system and 103,900 by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Further investigation revealed that the number of adults placed on EM by ICE more than tripled between 2021 and 2022, increasing to 360,000.  This means that the total number of adults on EM across both the civil immigration and criminal legal systems likely increased to nearly half a million during that time.

From 2005 to 2021, the number of people on EM in the United States grew nearly fivefold — and almost tenfold by 2022 — while the number of people incarcerated in jails and prisons declined by 16 percent and the number of people held in ICE civil detention increased but not nearly as dramatically as EM.  Regional trends in the criminal legal system reveal how EM has been used more widely in some states and cities but increased sharply from 2019 to 2021 across the country: The Midwest has the highest rate of state and local criminal legal system EM, at 65 per 100,000 residents; this rate stayed relatively constant from 2019 to midyear 2021.  In the Northeast, EM rates are the lowest of all the regions at 19 per 100,000 residents, but they increased by 46 percent from 2019 to 2021.  The South and West have similar rates, 41 and 34 per 100,000 residents respectively, but the growth rate in the South has outpaced that of the West in recent years — up 32 percent in the South compared to 18 percent in the West.

Prior to this report, the most recent estimate of the national EM population was from a 2015 Pew Charitable Trusts study — which studied the use of criminal legal system EM via a survey of the 11 biggest EM companies.  For this report, Vera researchers collected data from criminal legal system agencies in all 50 states and more than 500 counties, as well as from federal courts, the Federal Bureau of Prisons, and ICE.  Therefore, Vera’s study represents the most comprehensive count of the national EM population to date, as it accounts for the rise of smaller EM companies, immigration system surveillance, and new EM technologies.

For this report, Vera researchers also reviewed existing literature and spoke with local officials to better understand the impacts of EM programs.  Vera’s findings contradict private companies’ assertions that EM technology is low-cost, efficient, and reliable.  EM in the criminal legal system is highly variable and subject to political decisions at the local level. In many jurisdictions, EM is not used as a means to reduce jail populations.  Rather, it is often a crucial component of highly punitive criminal legal systems.  This challenges the dominant narrative that EM is an “alternative to incarceration.”  Nonetheless, this report also highlights several jurisdictions that demonstrate how decarceration can occur alongside reduced surveillance.

January 30, 2024 in Criminal Sentences Alternatives, Data on sentencing, Detailed sentencing data, Technocorrections | Permalink | Comments (1)

Sunday, January 21, 2024

"Heterogeneous Impacts of Sentencing Decisions"

The title of this post is the title of this empirical paper authored by Andrew Jordan, Ezra Karger and Derek Neal now available as a National Bureau of Economic Research (NEBR) Working Paper.  Here is the paper's abstract:

We examine 70,581 felony court cases filed in Chicago, IL, from 1990–2007.  We exploit case randomization to assess the impact of judge assignment and sentencing decisions on the arrival of new charges.  We find that, in marginal cases, incarceration creates large and lasting reductions in recidivism among first offenders.  Yet, among marginal repeat offenders, incarceration creates only short-run incapacitation effects and no lasting reductions in the incidence of new felony charges.  These treatment-impact differences inform ongoing legal debates concerning the merits of sentencing rules that recommend leniency for first offenders while encouraging or mandating incarceration sentences for many repeat offenders.  We show that methods that fail to estimate separate outcome equations for first versus repeat offenders or fail to model judge-specific sentencing tendencies separately for cases involving first versus repeat offenders produce misleading results for first offenders.

January 21, 2024 in Data on sentencing, Detailed sentencing data, Offender Characteristics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 18, 2024

Detailed case processing data in new BJS report on "Federal Justice Statistics, 2022"

The Bureau of Justice Statistics released this new report, titled "Federal Justice Statistics, 2022," which describes and provides data on criminal case processing in the federal system, including investigations, arrests, prosecutions and declinations, convictions and acquittals, sentencing, probation and supervised release, and imprisonment.  This document has an extraordinary amount of interesting data, and here is just a slice of some of the sentencing particulars:

Of the 65,470 defendants convicted in U.S. district court in FY 2022, more than three-quarters (77%) were sentenced to prison. The remainder received probation only (8%), a fine only (2%), or a suspended sentence (14%). Persons most likely to receive prison terms were those convicted of violent (93%), drug (89%), or weapons (89%) felonies. Seventeen percent of persons convicted of a misdemeanor received a prison sentence in FY 2022....

Convicted defendants received a median sentence of 110 months in prison for a violent offense, 70 months for a drug offense, and 60 months for a nonregulatory public order offense. The median prison term for immigration defendants convicted of a felony was 13 months....

Convicted males (80%) were sentenced to prison more often than convicted females (62%). Twenty percent of convicted females received a probation-only sentence, compared to 6% of convicted males. Convicted defendants who were black (85%) were the most likely to receive a prison sentence, followed by those who were American Indian or Alaska Native (84%); white (78%); Hispanic (74%); and Asian, Native Hawaiian, or Other Pacific Islander (66%). Among those sentenced to prison, white and black defendants were both sentenced to a median of 60 months.  The median age of defendants convicted in FY 2022 was 36 years....

January 18, 2024 in Data on sentencing, Detailed sentencing data | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, January 13, 2024

US Sentencing Commission releases data briefing on proposed youthful offender guideline amendments

On January 12, 2024, the US Sentencing Commission posted here what is described as "Public Data Briefing: 2024 Proposed Amendment Relating to Youthful Individuals." On this webpage, one can find a 20-minute video with USSC staff discussing lots of intricate criminal history and other sentencing data (which also can be found on these presentation slides).  Here is how the Commission contextualizes this presentation:

The Commission is seeking public comment on proposed amendments to the federal sentencing guidelines.  Commission staff prepared a data presentation to inform public comment on a two-part proposed amendment related to youthful individuals.  This briefing presents data on the impact of juvenile adjudications on criminal history scoring and sentencing outcomes to help inform public comment.

January 13, 2024 in Data on sentencing, Detailed sentencing data, Offender Characteristics, Who Sentences | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, December 29, 2023

"Abolish or Reform? An Analysis of Post-Release Supervision for Low-Level Offenders"

The title of this post is the title of this notable new empirical article authored by Ryan Sakoda now available via SSRN.  Here is its abstract:

At year-end 2021, there were nearly four million individuals serving a term of probation, parole, or post-release supervision in the United States.  This paper uses a unique and detailed dataset to study two distinct changes to state law that eliminated and then reinstated post-release supervision for low-level offenders in Kansas.  Each of these changes occurred in very different periods of criminal justice policy (2000 and 2013 respectively), but yielded the same result: post-release supervision caused large increases in reimprisonment with no detectable impact on reoffending.

I find that the elimination of post-release supervision in 2000 decreased the one-year reimprisonment rate of affected individuals by 28.5 percentage points (from a baseline of 35 percent).  In 2013, the reinstatement of post-release supervision caused a 17.5 percentage point increase in reimprisonment (bringing the reimprisonment rate back to approximately 30 percent) with no detectable decrease in reoffending.  Furthermore, I find that the elimination of post-release supervision in 2000 completely closed the racial gap in reimprisonment rates among the impacted individuals.  These results provide support for policies that would reduce the use of community supervision, not only to lower reincarceration rates, but as a promising opportunity to eliminate a major source of racial inequality in the criminal legal system.

December 29, 2023 in Data on sentencing, Detailed sentencing data, Race, Class, and Gender, Reentry and community supervision | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

New Prison Policy Initiative briefing explores reported 2022 increase in incarcerated persons in US

Over at the Prison Policy Initiative, Wendy Sawyer has this new briefing titled "Why did prison and jail populations grow in 2022 — and what comes next?".  Like so many PPI reports, this one st filled with interesting data and helpful graphics.  It begins this way (link from the original):

The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) recently released its annual reports on prison and jail populations in 2022, noting that the combined state and federal prison populations had increased for the first time in almost a decade and that jail populations had reached 90% of their pre-pandemic level. But what’s behind these trends? Do they just reflect another year of post-pandemic “rebound” or longer-term changes in crime or punishment? And what do these trends suggest about the road ahead for those working to end mass incarceration?

To answer these questions, we looked closely at the annual BJS data as well as 2022 crime and victimization data and criminal court case processing to get a better idea of the reasons behind the new numbers. We also looked at some more recent 2023 jail and prison data to see whether the 2022 uptick appears to have continued in 2023 (spoiler: it does). Finally, we looked at reports from over 20 states to see how states themselves understand these trends, and where they foresee their correctional populations heading in the future.

Ultimately, we conclude that these populations are increasing and can be expected to continue to climb in the next few years, not because of changes in crime but because (a) courts have largely recovered from the slowdowns caused by the pandemic and (b) many states have rolled back sensible criminal legal system reforms — or worse, have enacted legislation that will keep more people behind bars longer, despite decades of evidence that such policies don’t enhance public safety.

December 20, 2023 in Data on sentencing, Detailed sentencing data, Prisons and prisoners, Scope of Imprisonment | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, December 19, 2023

US Sentencing Commission releases new report on "Education Levels of Federally Sentenced Individuals"

The US Sentencing Commission this week released this notable new research report titled "Education Levels of Federally Sentenced Individuals." This latest report is summarized on this USSC webpage, which also sets forth "Key Findings," in this way:

The Commission has previously published reports on the relationship between demographic factors and sentencing, but none have focused specifically on the educational attainment of federally sentenced individuals.  The federal sentencing guidelines provide that specific characteristics of sentenced individuals, such as education, may be considered at sentencing; yet there is little information published that examines differences across education levels.  This report provides an analysis of the federally sentenced individuals in fiscal year 2021 by educational attainment...

  • Most federally sentenced U.S. citizens had a high school degree (42.3%) or never graduated high school (28.4%).
     
  • The types of offenses committed by federally sentenced U.S. citizens varied by educational attainment.
    • For those with less than a high school degree, drug trafficking (42.0%) was the most common offense, followed by firearms (25.2%), immigration (11.5%), robbery (4.2%), and fraud (4.1%).
    • Sentenced individuals with an undergraduate or graduate degree were convicted more often for economic or sex offenses than sentenced persons with less education. Approximately one-third (32.9%) of sentenced individuals with an undergraduate degree were convicted of a fraud offense.
    • Similarly, fraud (42.2%) was the most common offense of conviction among federally sentenced persons with a graduate degree, though medical doctors were equally likely to commit fraud (37.6%) or drug trafficking (36.5%).
  • Federally sentenced U.S. citizens with more educational attainment had less extensive criminal histories than sentenced persons in lower educational attainment groups.
     
  • Sentencing outcomes for federally sentenced U.S. citizens varied by educational attainment.
    • Sentenced individuals with more educational attainment were more likely to receive probation.
    • Sentenced persons with more educational attainment were more likely to receive a sentence below the applicable guideline range.
    • Federally sentenced individuals with more educational attainment received sentences that on average were further below the applicable guideline range than those with lower educational attainment.
  • Whether the degree was key to the facilitation of the offense varied considerably by type of graduate degree.
    • A substantial majority of medical doctors (85.6%) and sentenced individuals with graduate degrees in nursing (82.1%) required their degree to commit the offense.
    • In contrast, 29.3 percent of lawyers required their degree to commit the offense, and 27.5 percent received a § 3B1.3 enhancement.

December 19, 2023 in Data on sentencing, Detailed sentencing data, Federal Sentencing Guidelines, Offender Characteristics | Permalink | Comments (3)

Tuesday, December 12, 2023

The Sentencing Project produces new fact sheets on "Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Youth Incarceration"

I received via email an alter that The Sentencing Project has produced "new fact sheets show state-by-state incarceration rates by race and ethnicity" with respect to "youth incarceration."  These facts sheets are accessible at this link, and here is how the work is described at that webpage:

Despite significant drops in youth incarceration over a decade, youth of color remain vastly more likely to be incarcerated than their white peers.  New data released today by The Sentencing Project reveal Black youth and Tribal youths’ disproportionate incarceration is largely unchanged compared to 10 years prior, while Latinx youths’ incarceration disparities with their white peers have been reduced.

The Sentencing Project’s new fact sheets show state-by-state incarceration rates by race and ethnicity and highlight where the problem is getting worse and better.

December 12, 2023 in Data on sentencing, Detailed sentencing data, Offender Characteristics, Prisons and prisoners, Race, Class, and Gender, Scope of Imprisonment | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, December 03, 2023

Lots of (little?) stories in USSC's FY 2023 fourth quarter sentencing data release

Late last week, the US Sentencing Commission released on its website this latest quarterly data report, labelled "4th Quarter Release, Preliminary Fiscal Year 2023 Data Through September 30, 2023."  These new data provide the latest accounting of federal sentencings, and this latest data run seems to reflects the impact of the USSC 2023 guideline amendments.  Technically, the new guidelines did not become effective until November 1, 2023.  But the pending guidelines  — which, inter alia, changed some criminal history rules to benefit defendants — likely explains why Figure 2 shows a decline in the number of sentences imposed over the summer.  I suspect some judges delayed some sentencings until the new guidelines were effective.  Similarly, Figure 3 shows a record high number of variances in the last quarter, likely because some judges went forward with sentencings this summer and gave defendants the benefit of pending guidelines through a variance.

As I have noted before, a big COVID era trend was a historically large number of below-guideline variances, and this trend has now persisted over the last 13 quarters of official USSC data (as detailed in Figures 3 and 4).  I continue to believe this trend is mostly a facet of the different caseload and case mixes.  As I have also flagged before, for anyone who has long followed federal sentencing data and debates, the USSC's latest data on drug sentencing reflected in Figures 11 and 12 are especially striking.  These figures show, nearly half of all federal drug sentencings last fiscal year involved methamphetamine (roughly 9000 total), whereas fewer than 1000 crack defendants and fewer than 600 marijuana defendants were sentenced in federal court in FY 2023.

Finally, these fiscal year data provide just another reminder of the scope of the federal sentencing system.  The data show around 63,500 total sentences imposed in FY23, of with 92.5% included an imprisonment term.  These data mean that in an average week, an average of over 1,200 persons receive a federal sentence, and of those over 1,100 are being sentenced to federal prison.  

December 3, 2023 in Data on sentencing, Detailed sentencing data, Federal Sentencing Guidelines | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, December 01, 2023

DPIC releases year-end report emphasizing small number of executing and death sentencing states in 2023

The Death Penalty Information Center this morning released its annual report here under the heading "The Death Penalty in 2023: Year End Report Only Five States Conducted Executions and Seven States Imposed New Death Sentences in 2023, the Lowest Number of States in 20 Years." Here is the part of the report's introduction, with lots of data and details following thereafter:

This year is the 9th consecutive year with fewer than 30 people executed (24) and fewer than 50 people sentenced to death (21, as of December 1). The 23 men and one woman who were executed in 2023 were the oldest average age (tied with 2021) and spent the longest average number of years in prison in the modern death penalty era before being executed. As in previous years, most prisoners had significant physical and mental health issues at the time of their executions, some of which can be attributed to the many years they spent in severe isolation on death row. Continued difficulties obtaining lethal injection drugs led some states to explore new, untested methods of execution or revive previously abandoned methods. Other states enacted or continued pauses on executions while the state’s method of execution was studied....

The Supreme Court granted only one stay of execution, reflecting the view of some members of the Court that prisoners bring “last-minute claims that will delay the execution, no matter how groundless.” The Court granted certiorari in only four death penalty cases, all of which pertained to procedural issues, and turned away the overwhelming majority of petitions filed by death-sentenced prisoners. Some state officials and legislatures may once again feel unrestrained by the risk of judicial oversight or correction; Florida directly flouted Supreme Court precedent with new legislation making a non-homicide crime a death-eligible offense, while states like Alabama announced plans to use nitrogen gas in an untested, risky method of execution.

December 1, 2023 in Data on sentencing, Death Penalty Reforms, Detailed sentencing data, Who Sentences | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, November 30, 2023

Bureau of Justice Statistics releases "Prisoners in 2022 – Statistical Tables"

Via email, I learned that the Bureau of Justice Statistics today released its latest yearly accounting of US prison populations titled "Prisoners in 2022 – Statistical Tables." The first page of the 48-page document provides this overview and "highlights":

At yearend 2022, correctional authorities in the United States had jurisdiction over 1,230,100 persons in state or federal prisons, an increase of 2% or 25,100 persons from yearend 2021 (1,205,100 persons) (figure 1). This rise erased the 1% decline reported in 2021 and marked the first increase in the combined state and federal prison population in almost a decade (since 2013). The number of persons held under the jurisdiction of the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) grew 1% (up 2,000 persons) from 2021 to 2022, while the number held under the jurisdiction of state correctional authorities increased 2% (up 23,100).

Ninety-six percent of persons in U.S. prisons in 2022 were sentenced to more than 1 year under the jurisdiction of state or federal correctional authorities (1,185,600). Thirty-five states and the BOP showed growth in their sentenced prison populations from 2021 to 2022, with increases of at least 1,000 persons in eight states and the BOP.

  • The U.S. prison population was 1,230,100 at yearend 2022, a 2% increase from yearend 2021 (1,205,100).

  • The number of females in state or federal prison increased almost 5% from yearend 2021 (83,700) to yearend 2022 (87,800).

  • Nine states and the BOP increased their total prison populations by over 1,000 persons from yearend 2021 to yearend 2022.

  • State correctional authorities had jurisdiction over 1,039,500 persons sentenced to at least 1 year in prison in 2022, while the BOP had legal authority over 146,100 persons with similar sentences.

  • At yearend 2022, an estimated 32% of sentenced state and federal prisoners were black; 31% were white; 23% were Hispanic; 2% were American Indian or Alaska Native; and 1% were Asian, Native Hawaiian, or Other Pacific Islander.

  • The imprisonment rate at yearend 2022 (355 sentenced prisoners per 100,000 U.S. residents of all ages) was down 26% from yearend 2012 (480 per 100,000) but up 1% from yearend 2021 (350 per 100,000).

  • In 2022, states and the BOP admitted 469,200 persons to prison, which was 20,800 more than they released that year (448,400) and 48,200 more than they admitted the year before (421,000).

November 30, 2023 in Data on sentencing, Detailed sentencing data, Prisons and prisoners | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday, November 17, 2023

Bureau of Justice Statistics releases "Capital Punishment, 2021 – Statistical Tables"

This morning the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics released this new report with notable national data on the administration of the death penalty in the United States through the end of 2021.  As I have noted in prior posts, though BJS is often the provider of the best available data on criminal justice administration, in the capital punishment arena the Death Penalty Information Center tends to have much more up-to-date and much more detailed data on capital punishment issues.  Still, this new BJS report provides notable and clear statistical snapshots about the death penalty in the United States, and the document sets out these initial "Key Findings":

November 17, 2023 in Data on sentencing, Death Penalty Reforms, Detailed sentencing data | Permalink | Comments (6)

Tuesday, November 14, 2023

New US Sentencing Commission releases new updated report on "Demographic Differences in Federal Sentencing"

USSC-Seal_vFFThe US Sentencing Commission this morning released this notable new research report titled "Demographic Differences in Federal Sentencing."  As noted in this 2020 post, the USSC has completed similar reports looking at federal sentencing outcomes and the way its advisory guidelines function about every five or six years since the Booker ruling, and this latest report is summarized on this USSC webpage in this way:

The Commission has studied the issue of demographic differences in sentencing throughout its history.  In four prior reports, studying various time periods, the Commission has examined whether differences in the length of federal sentences imposed on individuals were associated with demographic characteristics of those individuals. 

Based on continued interest in this issue and consistent with best practices, the Commission re-examined and refined the analytical methods used in its previous reports to better understand sentencing disparity in the federal courts. Using new analytical techniques and newly available data, this report examines federal sentencing practices in the five fiscal years after the 2017 report to determine if the differences observed in the Commission’s prior reports continued to persist. 

This report presents the results of that work, and furthers the Commission’s mandates to establish sentencing policies and practices that eliminate unwarranted sentencing disparities and to serve as a center for information on federal sentencing practices.

The USSC webpage also sets forth these "Key Findings":

Sentencing differences continued to exist across demographic groups when examining all sentences imposed during the five-year study period (fiscal years 2017-2021). These disparities were observed across demographic groups — both among males and females.

  • Specifically, Black males received sentences 13.4 percent longer, and Hispanic males received sentences 11.2 percent longer, than White males.
  • Hispanic females received sentences 27.8 percent longer than White females, while Other race females received sentences 10.0 percent shorter.

The sentencing differences in the data the Commission examined largely can be attributed to the initial decision of whether the sentence should include incarceration at all rather than to the length of the prison term once a decision to impose one has been made. In particular, the likelihood of receiving a probationary sentence varied substantially by gender and race.

  • Black males were 23.4 percent less likely, and Hispanic males were 26.6 percent less likely, to receive a probationary sentence compared to White males.
  • Similar trends were observed among females, with Black and Hispanic females less likely to receive a probation sentence than White females (11.2% percent less likely and 29.7% less likely, respectively).

The sentencing differences were less pronounced when the analyses focused solely on cases in which a sentence of imprisonment was imposed, which comprise 94 percent of all cases sentenced during the five-year study period.

  • Focusing solely on these cases, Black males received lengths of incarceration 4.7 percent longer, and Hispanic male received lengths of incarceration 1.9 percent longer, than White males.
  • There was little difference among females receiving a sentence of imprisonment. The only statistically significant difference in the length of imprisonment among females was among Hispanic females, who received lengths of incarceration 5.9 percent shorter than White females.

Differences in the length of imprisonment across demographic groups were concentrated among individuals who received relatively short sentences.

  • Among individuals sentenced to 18 months or less incarceration, Black males received lengths of incarceration 6.8 percent longer than White males. The difference narrowed to 1.3 percent for individuals who received sentences of greater than 18 months to 60 months; but for sentences longer than 60 months, Black males received lengths of incarceration approximately one percent shorter than White males. Few differences were statistically significant when comparing sentences for females.

Across all analyses, females received sentences that were shorter, on average, than males.

  • When examining all sentences imposed, females received sentences 29.2 percent shorter than males. Females of all races were 39.6 percent more likely to receive a probation sentence than males. When examining only sentences of incarceration, females received lengths of incarceration 11.3 percent shorter than males.

November 14, 2023 in Data on sentencing, Detailed sentencing data, Federal Sentencing Guidelines, Offender Characteristics, Race, Class, and Gender, Who Sentences | Permalink | Comments (36)

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Prison Policy Initiative highlights ten stats about modern criminal justice system

Emily Widra at Prison Policy Initiative has produced this new item under the title "Ten statistics about the scale and impact of mass incarceration in the U.S."  The stats listed, along with PPI's signature visuals, actually cover a lot more than incarceration, and here is how the list is set up:

The United States’ reliance on incarceration outpaces most of the globe: every single state incarcerates more people per capita than virtually any independent democracy on Earth.  But the sheer magnitude and impact of a system so large can be hard to fully comprehend.  We looked back over some of the best criminal legal system research and chose these ten statistics as some of the most handy for advocates, policymakers, and journalists working to help the public appreciate just how far-reaching mass incarceration is in this country.

Here are a couple of the items from the list (with links from the original):

October 25, 2023 in Data on sentencing, Detailed sentencing data, Scope of Imprisonment | Permalink | Comments (6)

Sunday, October 22, 2023

Death Penalty Information Center has updated its impressive "Death Penalty Census."

Via this notice on the Death Penalty Information Center's website, I have noticed that DPIC "has updated its Death Penalty Census, a database of every death sentence imposed since 1972."  Here is more about this valuable resource:

The database now contains information accurate as of January 1, 2022, inclusive of the 50th year of the modern death penalty. The Census contains information on 9,820 death sentences imposed on 8,842 defendants. It includes the name, race, and gender of each defendant, along with the region, state, county, and year in which the sentence was imposed.

When it was launched in 2022, the Census included available data through January 1, 2021. With the addition of one year of data, it now includes all death sentences imposed through January 1, 2022, as well as the outcome of death sentences and current case statuses as of that date. The update added 21 new death sentences imposed in 2021, three exonerations that took place that year, and numerous updates regarding sentence reversals, deaths on death row, resentences, and other changes to the status of cases.

For anyone interested in data for tracking modern capital punishment, this DPIC Death Penalty Census seems like a gold-standard resource.

October 22, 2023 in Data on sentencing, Death Penalty Reforms, Detailed sentencing data | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Prison Policy Initiative provide updated data on "incarceration stats by race, ethnicity, and gender" in all states

Prison Policy Initiative has this new briefing by Leah Wang fully titled "Updated data and charts: Incarceration stats by race, ethnicity, and gender for all 50 states and D.C.: New data visualizations and updated tables show the national landscape of persistent racial disparity in state prisons and local jails."  here is how the briefing begins (with links from the original):

The best and latest criminal legal system data are often scattered across different government agencies, in incompatible formats, and difficult to compare.  To make the most useful information more accessible, we make the underlying data for our timely reports and briefings available in our Data Toolbox, and create state-specific graphics on our comprehensive State Profiles pages.  Today, we’ve added a rich new series of resources for our users of our work:

First, we now have downloadable spreadsheet of the most recently available incarceration data for people in state prisons and in local jails, by race and ethnicity and by sex, for all 50 states and D.C.  Unlike other datasets, ours provides apples-to-apples state comparisons in three formats (counts, rates, and percentages): We’ve done the math to standardize incompatible measurements found in the various original data sources.

Second, we’ve updated over 100 of the key graphics on our State Profiles pages showing prison and jail incarceration rates by race and ethnicity, and how the racial composition of each state’s prisons and jails compare to the total state population.

September 27, 2023 in Data on sentencing, Detailed sentencing data, Prisons and prisoners, Race, Class, and Gender, Scope of Imprisonment | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

New US Sentencing Commission report covers "Federal Escape Offenses"

The US Sentencing Commission this morning released this new 30+-page report titled simply "Federal Escape Offenses."  This USSC webpage provides a summary and key findings, and here and highlights from the highlights:

This new publication expands upon the Commission’s previous research on federal escape offenses. In this report, the Commission combines data it regularly collects with data from a special coding project to provide a deeper understanding of escape offenses and the individuals who commit those crimes.  The report provides the characteristics of individuals who commit escape offenses, then chronologically examines their criminal histories before the instant offense through their alleged criminal behavior while on escape status. Next it provides information on their subsequent sentencing.  Finally, this report examines their criminal behavior after being released into the community by the recidivism rates of a cohort of individuals released from federal custody in 2010.

  • Escape offenses accounted for less than one percent (0.4%) of all federal offenses between fiscal years 2017 and 2021.

  • Individuals sentenced for escape offenses had extensive and serious criminal histories....

  • Most federal escapes were from non-secure custody. The majority (89.0%) of individuals escaped from a Residential Reentry Center (i.e., a halfway house)....

  • Nearly all (99.2%) individuals sentenced for an escape offense received a sentence of imprisonment. The average term of imprisonment was 12 months.

  • Nearly two-thirds (65.0%) of individuals sentenced for an escape offense were sentenced within the guideline range for their escape crime, compared to 40.2 percent of all other federally sentenced U.S. citizens.

  • The majority (85.7%) of individuals sentenced for an escape offense and released in 2010 were rearrested during an eight-year follow-up period, which was higher than individuals sentenced for any other type of federal offense.  By comparison, one-half (49.2%) of other individuals released in 2010 were rearrested during the same time period.

    • Individuals sentenced for escape offenses were rearrested sooner after release compared to other sentenced individuals. Their median time to rearrest was ten months, compared to 19 months for the remaining 2010 cohort.

September 26, 2023 in Data on sentencing, Detailed sentencing data, Federal Sentencing Guidelines, Offense Characteristics | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, September 21, 2023

US Sentencing Commission releases FY 2023 third quarter sentencing data (and the stories of crack sentencing continues to evolve)

Earlier this week, the US Sentencing Commission released on its website its latest quarterly data report which is labelled "3rd Quarter Release, Preliminary Fiscal Year 2023 Data Through June 30, 2023."  These new data provide the latest accounting of how federal sentencing is working toward a new normal in the wake of a COVID pandemic and related evolutions in the federal criminal justice system.  For example, as reflected in Figure 2, while the three quarters prior to the pandemic averaged roughly 20,000 federal sentencings per quarter, the three quarters closing out 2020 had only between about 12,000 and 13,000 cases sentenced each quarter.  Calendar year 2021 had a partial rebounding of total cases sentenced, but the "new normal" seems to be between 15,000 and 17,000 total federal cases sentenced each quarter (and Figure 2 shows that a decline in immigration cases accounts for the decrease in overall cases sentenced).

As I have noted before, the other big COVID era trend was a historically large number of below-guideline variances being granted, and this trend has now extended over the last 12 quarters of official USSC data (as detailed in Figures 3 and 4).  I suspect this trend is mostly a facet of the different caseload and case mixes.  In the most recent quarters, the official data show that only around 42.5% of all federal sentences are imposed "Within Guideline Range."  This number continues the modern reality that, since the pandemic hit, significantly more federal sentences are being imposed outside the guideline range (for a wide array of reasons) than are being imposed inside the calculated range.

As I have also flagged before, for anyone who has long followed federal sentencing data and debates, the USSC's latest data on drug sentencing reflected in Figures 11 and 12 should be especially striking.  These figures show, for the last three quarters, that over 47% of all federal drug sentencings involved methamphetamine, which is more of the drug sentencing caseload than powder and crack cocaine, heroin and fentanyl combined.  Moreover, the average sentence for all those meth cases is well over eight years in prison (and has been rising in recent quarters), whereas the average for all the other drug cases is around six years or lower.  In other words, the federal "war on drugs" these days is much more focused upon, and imposes longer prison sentences upon, the meth defendants than anyone else. 

Especially notable is how few crack cases are being sentenced and how relatively low average crack sentences now are.  Back in FY 2008 (a little before the sentencing reforms of the Fair Sentencing Act), the USSC data showed that over 6000 crack defendants were been federally sentenced that year with an average sentence approaching 10 years in prison.  But now, with only 4.6% of the federal drug sentencing caseload involving crack cases, it seems likely that fewer than 1000 crack defendants will be sentenced in federal court in FY 2023 and in the latest quarter the average crack sentence was well under 5 years.  In other words, the crack caseload has gone down by more than 80% and the average sentence has gone done by more than 50%.  Remarkable.

September 21, 2023 in Data on sentencing, Detailed sentencing data, Drug Offense Sentencing, Federal Sentencing Guidelines | Permalink | Comments (2)

Monday, August 21, 2023

Recapping some recent notable reports on prison realities and more from the Prison Policy Initiative

I recently received a helpful review of just some of the remarkable materials and data assembled by the Prison Policy Initiative on an array of prison- and punishment-related topics.  I am pretty sure I have blogged about some or even most of these reports, but I thought it still helpful to reprint here links to the reports and the brief summaries sent my way:

August 21, 2023 in Data on sentencing, Detailed sentencing data, Prisons and prisoners, Recommended reading, Scope of Imprisonment | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, August 09, 2023

US Sentencing Commission releases more "Quick Facts" data on economic offenses

This week, the US Sentencing Commission has released another set of its "Quick Facts" publications.  Long-time readers have long heard me praise the USSC for producing these convenient and informative short data documents, which are designed to "give readers basic facts about a single area of federal crime in an easy-to-read, two-page format."  Here are the latest postings by the USSC on this  "Quick Facts" page:

August 9, 2023 in Data on sentencing, Detailed sentencing data, Offense Characteristics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 18, 2023

US Sentencing Commission releases more "Quick Facts" data on wide range of topics

I have been noticing in recent weeks that the US Sentencing Commission has been releasing a lot more new short data reports in the form of its "Quick Facts" publications. (Long-time readers have long heard me praise the USSC for producing these convenient and informative short data documents, which are designed to "give readers basic facts about a single area of federal crime in an easy-to-read, two-page format").  Here is just a sampling of recent postings by the USSC on this  "Quick Facts" page:

There are so many notable and interesting little data items in these little documents, and I welcome folks highlighting any interesting data points in the comments.  I am eager to flag the continued drop in federal prosecutions for marijuana trafficking, as the FY 2022 shows only 806 persons being federal sentenced for this offense.  (I co-authored an article a few years ago looking at federal marijuana data, titled "How State Reforms Have Mellowed Federal Enforcement of Marijuana Prohibition," which noted that a decade ago nearly 7000 persons were being federal sentenced for marijuana trafficking.) 

July 18, 2023 in Data on sentencing, Detailed sentencing data, Drug Offense Sentencing, Federal Sentencing Guidelines | Permalink | Comments (1)

Sunday, 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 in Data on sentencing, Detailed sentencing data, Federal Sentencing Guidelines | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 07, 2023

New Sentencing Project report reviews "Adults 25 and Younger Sentenced to Life without Parole"

The Sentencing Project today released this new report on certain LWOP sentencing patterns titled "“Left to Die in Prison: Emerging Adults 25 and Younger Sentenced to Life without Parole.” Here are excerpts from the report's "Executive Summary" (with endnotes removed):

Beginning at age 18, U.S. laws typically require persons charged with a crime to have their case heard in criminal rather than juvenile court, where penalties are more severe.  The justification for this is that people are essentially adults by age 18, yet this conceptualization of adulthood is flawed.  The identification of full criminal accountability at age 18 ignores the important, distinct phase of human development referred to as emerging adulthood, also known as late adolescence or young adulthood.  Compelling evidence shows that most adolescents are not fully matured into adulthood until their mid-twenties.

The legal demarcation of 18 as adulthood rests on outdated notions of adolescence.  Based on the best scientific understanding of human development, ages 18 to 25 mark a unique stage of life between childhood and adulthood which is recognized within the fields of neuroscience, sociology, and psychology.  Thus, there is growing support for providing incarcerated people who were young at the time of their offense a second look at their original sentence to account for their diminished capacity.  A 2022 study found similar levels of public support for providing a second look at prison sentences for crimes committed under age 18 as for those committed under age 25.... 

Two in five people — 11,600 individuals — sentenced to LWOP between 1995 and 2017 were under 26 at the time of their sentence.  In Michigan, Pennsylvania, and California, nearly half of those sentenced to LWOP were younger than 26.  Nationally, the peak age at conviction was age 23, which is well within the period between youth and adulthood.

Moreover, two thirds (66%) of people under 26 years old sentenced to LWOP are Black compared with 51% of persons sentenced to LWOP beyond this age. As we show in this report, our analysis finds that being Black and young has produced a substantially larger share of LWOP sentences than being Black alone. This fact reinforces the growing understanding that extreme sentences disproportionately impact Black Americans.

The report’s findings support a recent sentencing trend recognizing emerging adulthood as a developmental stage; more than a dozen states have introduced or passed legislative reforms or adopted jurisprudential restrictions in recent years to protect emerging adults from extreme punishment.  These reforms utilize the latest scientific understanding of adolescence and young adulthood to recognize emerging adulthood as a necessary consideration in assigning culpability. 

In light of strong evidence showing the unique attributes of emerging adulthood, sentences that allow no review once adolescent development is concluded are especially egregious.

June 7, 2023 in Data on sentencing, Detailed sentencing data, Offender Characteristics, Procedure and Proof at Sentencing, Sentences Reconsidered | Permalink | Comments (3)

Friday, June 02, 2023

US Sentencing Commission releases a few updated "Quick Facts" and latest "compassionate release" data

The US Sentencing Commission has recently released some new sentencing data reports.  Long-time readers have long heard me praise the USSC for producing insightful little data documents in the form of its "Quick Facts" publications (which are designed to "give readers basic facts about a single area of federal crime in an easy-to-read, two-page format").  The USSC recent posted these four new entries:

There are so many notable and interesting little data items in these little documents, and I hope to find time to mine a few data notes in the days ahead.  In addition, the USSC's website promises "more updated Quick Facts coming soon."

In addition, the USSC also recently published this updated "Compassionate Release Data Report." This report, which has information covering from October 2019 through March 2023, includes new data on sentence reduction motions under section 3582(c)(1)(A) filed with the courts and decided during the first two quarters of fiscal year 2023. Not surprisingly, this data report shows continued month-over-month declines in the number of sentence reduction motions filed and granted since the heights of the COVID pandemic. And yet, the USSC data show that there are still more of these motions being filed and being granted in recent times than was being granted before the pandemic.

June 2, 2023 in Data on sentencing, Detailed sentencing data, Drug Offense Sentencing, Federal Sentencing Guidelines, FIRST STEP Act and its implementation | Permalink | Comments (3)

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

Prison Policy Initiative details "Punishment Beyond Prisons 2023: Incarceration and supervision by state"

Prison Policy Initiative has produced this intricate new report detailing how many folks are under correctional control in every state and throughout the entire US.  The report is titled "Punishment Beyond Prisons 2023: Incarceration and supervision by state," and here is how it gets started:

The U.S. has a staggering 1.9 million people behind bars, but even this number doesn’t capture the true reach of the criminal legal system.  It’s more accurate to look at the 5.5 million people under all of the nation’s mass punishment systems, which include not only incarceration but also probation and parole.

Altogether, an estimated 3.7 million adults are under community supervision (sometimes called community corrections) — nearly twice the number of people who are incarcerated in jails and prisons combined.  The vast majority of people under supervision are on probation (2.9 million people), and over 800,000 people are on parole.  Yet despite the massive number of people under supervision, parole and probation do not receive nearly as much attention as incarceration.  Policymakers and the public must understand how deeply linked these systems are to mass incarceration to ensure that these “alternatives” to incarceration aren’t simply expanding it.

We’ve designed this report specifically to allow state policymakers and residents to assess the scale and scope of their entire correctional systems.  Our findings raise the question of whether community supervision systems are working as intended or whether they simply funnel people into prisons and jails — or are even replicating prison conditions in the community.  The report encourages policymakers and advocates to consider how many people under correctional control don’t need to be locked up or monitored at all, and whether high-need individuals are receiving necessary services or only sanctions.

In this update to our 2018 report, we compile data for all 50 states and D.C. on federal and state prisons, local jails, jails in Indian Country, probation, and parole.  We also include data on punishment systems that are adjacent to the criminal legal system: youth confinement and involuntary commitment.  Because these systems often mirror and even work in tandem with the criminal legal system, we include them in this broader view of mass punishment. We make the data accessible in one nationwide chart, 100+ state-specific pie charts and a data appendix, and discuss how the scale and harms of these systems can be minimized.

May 10, 2023 in Data on sentencing, Detailed sentencing data, Reentry and community supervision, Scope of Imprisonment | Permalink | Comments (18)

Thursday, April 27, 2023

US Sentencing Commission releases "geographic sentencing data" from FY22

I just saw that the US Sentencing Commission this week posted here its "geographic sentencing data" for Fiscal Year 2022.  The USSC webpage has links to localized data reports that provide all sorts of fascinating "data slices" about the federal sentencing world. Here is how the webpage explains the over 100 localized reports:

These reports examine federal sentencing statistics from each judicial district, the districts within each judicial circuit, and the districts within each state. Each report compares the statistics from the respective district, circuit, or state to the nation as a whole. Each set consists of the following figure and tables:

  • Figure A - Federal Offenders by Type of Crime
  • Figure B - Distribution of Primary Drug Type in Federal Drug Cases
  • Table 1 - Distribution of Federal Offenders by Type of Crime
  • Table 2 - Guilty Pleas and Trials in Each Circuit and District
  • Table 3 - Guilty Pleas and Trials by Type of Crime
  • Table 4 - Sentence Type by Type of Crime (National)
  • Table 5 - Sentence Type by Type of Crime (District)
  • Table 6 - Incarceration Rate of U.S. Citizen Offenders Eligible for Non-Prison Sentences by Type of Crime
  • Table 7 - Sentence Length by Type of Crime
  • Table 8 - Sentence Imposed Relative to the Guideline Range
  • Table 9 - Sentence Imposed Relative to the Guideline Range in Each Circuit and District
  • Table 10 - Sentence Imposed Relative to the Guideline Range by Type of Crime

Just a few clicks on some of the circuit reports and glances at Figure A highlight some interesting (though perhaps unsurprising) data about how very different caseload mixes can be in different regions.  For example, in the Fifth Circuit's district courts, nearly 60% of federal cases sentenced in FY 2022 were immigration cases, while about 20% were drug cases and less than 8% were firearm cases.  But, in the First Circuit's district courts, nearly 50% of the federal cases sentenced in FY 2022 were drug cases, while nearly 13% were firearm cases and less than 6% were immigration cases.

April 27, 2023 in Data on sentencing, Detailed sentencing data, Federal Sentencing Guidelines, Who Sentences | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 17, 2023

US Sentencing Commission releases FY 2023 first quarter sentencing data

Today the US Sentencing Commission released on its website its latest quarterly data report which sets forth "Preliminary Fiscal Year 2023 Data Through December 31, 2022."  These new data provide the latest accounting of how the COVID era continues to echo through federal sentencing.  For example, as reflected in Figure 2, while the three quarters prior to the pandemic averaged roughly 20,000 federal sentencings per quarter, the three quarters closing out 2020 had only between about 12,000 and 13,000 cases sentenced each quarter.  Calendar year 2021 had a partial rebounding of total cases sentenced, but the "new normal" seems to be just over 15,000 total federal cases sentenced each quarter (and Figure 2 shows that a decline in immigration cases primarily accounts for the decrease in overall cases sentenced).

As I have noted before, the other big COVID era trend was a historically large number of below-guideline variances being granted, and this trend has now extended over the last 10 quarters of offiical USSC data (as detailed in Figures 3 and 4).  I suspect this trend is just another facet of the different caseload and case mix.  In this most recent quarter, the official data show that only 42.2% of all federal sentences are imposed "Within Guideline Range."  This number is not an historic low, but it continues the modern statistical reality that now more federal sentences are imposed outside the guideline range (for a wide array of reasons) than are imposed inside the range.

There are a lot of interesting data and stories to mine from the last USSC data report, but for some reaosn I was especially struck by the data on drug sentencing reflected in Figures 11 and 12.  These figures show, for the latest quarter, that over 47% of all federal drug sentencings involved methamphetamine, which is more of the drug sentencingcaseload than powder and crack cocaine, heroin and fentanyl combined.  Morever, the average sentence for all those meth cases is over eight years in prison, whereas the average for all the others is under six years.  In other words, the federal "war on drugs" these days is much more focused upon, and imposes longer prison sentencing upon, the meth defendants than anyone else. 

April 17, 2023 in Data on sentencing, Detailed sentencing data, Drug Offense Sentencing, Federal Sentencing Guidelines | Permalink | Comments (2)

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

USSC publishes 2022 Annual Report and latest Sourcebook of Federal Sentencing Statistics

Via email this morning, I learned that the US Sentencing Commission published on its website today its 2022 Annual Report and latest Sourcebook of Federal Sentencing Statistics.  Both data-rich publications have lots of interesting statistics providing lots of interesting views of the realities of (fiscal year) 2022 federal sentencing.  The email I received from the USSC flagged these "FY22 Fast Facts":

The Sourcebook presents information on the 64,142 federal offenders sentenced in FY22 (October 1, 2021 through September 30, 2022) — a sentencing caseload that increased by 6,855 from the previous fiscal year.

  • Drug trafficking, immigration, firearms, and fraud crimes together comprised 82% of the federal sentencing caseload in FY22.  

  • Methamphetamine continued to be the most common drug type in the federal system (49% in FY22).

    • The portion of drug cases involving fentanyl increased markedly over the last year, such that fentanyl cases were the third most common among all drug cases. 
  • Methamphetamine trafficking continued to be the most severely punished federal drug crime (94 months, representing an increase of 4 months from the previous year).

    • 65% of drug offenders were convicted of an offense carrying a mandatory minimum penalty, holding relatively steady from the previous year.

March 15, 2023 in Data on sentencing, Detailed sentencing data, Drug Offense Sentencing, Federal Sentencing Guidelines | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, March 01, 2023

Prison Policy Initiative reports on "Women’s Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie 2023"

Picture1The folks at Prison Policy Initiative has released its latest update in its incarceration pie series with this new report titled "Women’s Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie 2023" authored by By Aleks Kajstura and Wendy Sawyer. Everyone should click through to see all the great graphics that go with report, and here are parts of text toward the start and at the very end of the report:

With growing public attention to the problem of mass incarceration, people want to know about women’s experiences with incarceration.  How many women are held in prisons, jails, and other correctional facilities in the United States? Why are they there?  How are their experiences different from men’s?  Further, how has the COVID-19 pandemic changed the number of women behind bars?  These are important questions, but finding those answers requires not only disentangling the country’s decentralized and overlapping criminal legal systems, but also unearthing the frustratingly limited data that’s broken down by gender.

This report provides a detailed view of the 172,700 women and girls incarcerated in the United States, and how they fit into the even broader picture of correctional control.  We pull together data from a number of government agencies and break down the number of women and girls held by each correctional system by specific offense.  In this updated report, we’ve also gone beyond the numbers, using rare self-reported data from a national survey of people in prison, to offer new insights about incarcerated women’s backgrounds, families, health, and experiences in prison. This report, produced in collaboration with the ACLU’s Campaign for Smart Justice, answers the questions of why and where women are locked up....

Most notably, and in stark contrast to the total incarcerated population, where the state prison systems hold twice as many people as are held in jails, more incarcerated women are held in jails than in state prisons.  As we will explain, the outsized role of jails has serious consequences for incarcerated women and their families.

Women’s incarceration has grown at twice the pace of men’s incarceration in recent decades, and has disproportionately been located in local jails.  The data needed to explain exactly what happened, when, and why do not yet exist, not least because the data on women has long been obscured by the larger scale of men’s incarceration. Frustratingly, even as this report is updated using the same data sources from year to year, it is not a direct tool for tracking changes in women’s incarceration over time because we are forced to rely on the limited sources available, which are neither updated regularly nor always compatible across years....

The picture of women’s incarceration is far from complete, and many questions remain about mass incarceration’s unique impact on women. This report offers the critical estimate that a quarter of all incarcerated women are unconvicted. But — since the federal government hasn’t collected the key underlying data in almost 20 years — is that number growing? And how do the harms of that unnecessary incarceration intersect with women’s disproportionate caregiving to impact families? Beyond these big picture questions, there are a plethora of detailed data points that are not reported for women by any government agencies, such as the simple number of women incarcerated in U.S. territories or involuntarily committed to state psychiatric hospitals because of justice system involvement.

While more data is needed, the data in this report lends focus and perspective to the policy reforms needed to end mass incarceration without leaving women behind.

March 1, 2023 in Detailed sentencing data, Offender Characteristics, Prisons and prisoners, Scope of Imprisonment | Permalink | Comments (3)

Thursday, February 23, 2023

CCJ report explores "The Relationship Between Sentence Length, Time Served, and State Prison Population Levels"

I keep noting this post from last year discussing the Council of Criminal Justice's impressive Task Force on Long Sentences, in part because that Task Force is continuing to produce all sorts of important research and analysis concerning long sentences (see prior posts linked below).  The latest report, which is available here, is authored by Gerald Gaes and Julia Laskorunsky and is titled "The Relationship Between Sentence Length, Time Served, and State Prison Population Levels."  Here is the part of the report's introduction and "key takeaways": 

Previous research for the Task Force shows that in recent years the share of the total U.S. prison population with sentences of 10 or more years has increased, driven by fewer people serving shorter terms.  In 2019, 57% of people in prison were serving a long sentence, up from 46% in 2005.  Over the same period, there was a 60% increase in the average amount of time served by people with long sentences.

This work builds on research conducted as part of the Robina Institute of Criminal Law and Criminal Justice’s Prison Release: Degrees of Indeterminacy (DOI) project, which examined the statutory and administrative policy frameworks that govern prison release (and thus time served) in each state, evaluated how these policies produced sizeable changes to time served in Colorado, and explored how back-end release discretion affects prison population levels across the United States.  This brief summarizes the relevant findings from the DOI project and provides additional analysis of the relationship between sentence length and time served.

Key Takeaways

  • Actual time served in prison is often quite different from the sentence length pronounced in court, and therefore sentence length alone only partially explains the individual and policy-level implications of long sentences.
  • The relationship between sentence length and time served varies greatly across states and jurisdictions due to the difference in the legal and statutory framework that governs prison release.
  • States that have higher than average sentence length also have higher than average time served, but the relationship between these two factors is modest.
  • The average judicial maximum sentence in states with highly indeterminate systems (7 years) is twice as long as in highly determinate states (3.5 years). However, the difference in average time served in highly indeterminate and highly determinate states is much narrower, ranging between 2.1 and 2.6 years.
  • Some states are much more likely to impose long prison sentences than others. The proportion of people entering prison with long sentences ranges from 2% in Colorado to 66% in Michigan.
  • Individuals serving long sentences in states with highly determinate systems spend, on average, nearly three times as long in prison as individuals serving long sentences in states with highly indeterminate systems.
  • Nationally, back-end factors such as the allocation of sentence credit discounts, and for paroling states, the parole release framework explain more of the variation (60%) of average time served than variation in average sentence length (40%).
  • States with identical average sentence length can have different average time served based on the degree of indeterminacy and back-end factors. For example, Oregon and Texas both had an average sentence length of 4.4 years in 2016, yet the average time served in Texas (2.1 years), a state with a high degree of indeterminacy, was lower than in Oregon (3.5 years), a state with a low degree of indeterminacy.

Prior related posts on CCJ's Task Force on Long Sentences:

February 23, 2023 in Data on sentencing, Detailed sentencing data, Scope of Imprisonment | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 08, 2023

Sentencing Project releases "Ending 50 Years of Mass Incarceration: Urgent Reform Needed to Protect Future Generations"

The folks at The Sentencing Project have a new website and a new "featured campaign" (with its own webpage) titled "50 Years and a Wake Up: Ending The Mass Incarceration Crisis In America." As explained on the webpage: "The campaign raises awareness about the dire state of the U.S. criminal legal system, the devastating impact of incarceration on communities and families, and proposes more effective crime prevention strategies for our country."

The most recent publication from the campaign is titled "Ending 50 Years of Mass Incarceration: Urgent Reform Needed to Protect Future Generations."  This eight-page document has a number of graphics and charts; its text begins this way (footnotes removed):

By year end 2021, the U.S. prison population had declined 25% since reaching its peak in 2009.  Still, the 1.2 million people imprisoned in 2021 were nearly six times the prison population 50 years ago, before the prison population began its dramatic growth. The United States remains a world leader in incarceration, locking up its citizens at a far higher rate than any other industrialized nation.

At the current pace of decarceration, averaging 2.3% annually since 2009, it would take 75 years — until 2098 — to return to 1972’s prison population.

It is unacceptable to wait more than seven decades to substantively alter a system that violates human rights and is out of step with the world, is racially biased, and diverts resources from effective public safety investments.  To achieve meaningful decarceration, policymakers must reduce prison admissions and scale back sentence lengths — both for those entering prisons and those already there.  The growing movement to take a “second look” at unjust and excessive prison terms is a necessary first step.  As the country grapples with an uptick in certain crimes, ending mass incarceration requires accelerating recent reforms and making effective investments in public safety.

Another longer document in this campaign was released a few weeks ago and is called "Mass Incarceration Trends." Among other part of that document is a chart highlighting that an era of massively increased incarceration also brought massive increases in community supervision:

As depicted in Figure 3, probation and parole have expanded both in the absolute number and length of supervision for several decades now.  Between 1980 and 2020, the number of people on probation nearly tripled and the number of people under parole supervision nearly quadrupled.

February 8, 2023 in Data on sentencing, Detailed sentencing data, Prisons and prisoners, Reentry and community supervision, Scope of Imprisonment | Permalink | Comments (3)

Friday, December 30, 2022

Bureau of Justice Statistics releases "Federal Justice Statistics, 2021"

This week, the Bureau of Justice Statistics released this big data report titled simply "Federal Justice Statistics, 2019." This press release about the report provides these highglights (which are only a small sample of data reported):

The study found that arrests by federal law enforcement agencies declined 35% from fiscal year (FY) 2020 to FY 2021, reaching the lowest level over the past two decades.  Due to the coronavirus pandemic, federal arrests declined 81% and cases charged in federal court declined 77%, from March to April 2020, with an additional decline of 25% in arrests and 20% in cases charged, from October 2020 to February 2021.

About 6 in 10 federal arrests in 2021 were for immigration, drug, or supervision violations (48,257).  The largest percentage decrease in arrests from FY 2020 to FY 2021 was for immigration offenses (down 72%), from 51,723 to 14,446 arrests.  Arrests for property offenses increased 11% during this time.

While federal arrests declined substantially from FY 2020 to FY 2021, the number of persons charged with a federal offense in U.S. district court decreased less than 1%, from 66,059 to 65,880.  During that period, the number of persons charged with violent offenses increased 18% and the number charged with public order offenses increased 13%, while the number of persons charged with immigration offenses decreased 18%....

Of the 63,380 defendants adjudicated in federal district courts in FY 2021, about 9 in 10 were convicted.  Among those convicted, nearly three quarters (74%) were sentenced to prison.  The median prison sentence for persons convicted was 37 months.  Among persons sentenced to prison, both white and black defendants were sentenced to a median of 60 months.

The type of sentence imposed in FY 2021 varied by sex, race or Hispanic origin and age of defendants.  Convicted males (77%) were sentenced to prison more commonly than convicted females (59%).  Those sentenced to prison had a median age of 35 years, while those sentenced to probation had a median age of 38 years.  A greater percentage of blacks (85%) and American Indians or Alaska Natives (82%) who were convicted were sentenced to prison compared to convicted persons who were white (77% ), Hispanic (71%) or Asian, Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander (69%).

For the 10-year period from fiscal yearend 2011 to 2021, the number of persons under federal correctional control declined 15%, from 410,887 to 350,543.  The proportion in confi nement or community supervision did not change during that period.  Approximately 3 in 5 of these persons were in secure confinement and 2 in 5 were on community supervision in each year.

December 30, 2022 in Data on sentencing, Detailed sentencing data | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Lots of new data and a notable date from the US Sentencing Commission

The US Sentencing Commission yesterday published two new data reports: (1) this updated compassionate release data report and (2) this FY 2022 fourth quarter sentencing data.  There are lots of stories within all these data, though I still see the top stories to be those discussed here before: there are dramatic district variations in compassionate release grant rates and there are still relatively few "within guideline" sentences" being imposed by judges.

Specifically, on compassionate release, the three districts of Georgia show one notable example of variation: the Southern District of Georgia has granted only 8 out of 296 sentence reduction motions for a 2.7% grant rate; the Middle District of Georgia has granted only 4 out of 265 sentence reduction motions for a 1.5% grant rate; but the Northern District of Georgia has granted 80 out of 174 sentence reduction motions for a 46% grant rate.  On original sentencing more generally, this most recent USSC data show that, for all of FY 22, only 42% of all federal sentences have been imposed "Within Guideline Range" (and the number is under 28% for "Drug Trafficking" cases).

For various reasons and in various ways, all these data in some sense reflect the consequences of the US Sentencing Commission having to function without a quorum and being unable to amend any guidelines for nearly five years.  But, of course, we now have a fully loaded Commission, and the Commissions are clearly hard at work on guidelines reforms.  We know that because the Commission has now officially announced that it will have a public meeting on January 12, 2023, and that announcement notes the meeting agenda is to include "Possible Vote to Publish Proposed Guideline Amendments and Issues for Comment."

December 21, 2022 in Data on sentencing, Detailed sentencing data, Drug Offense Sentencing, Federal Sentencing Guidelines, FIRST STEP Act and its implementation, Sentences Reconsidered | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

The Bureau of Justice Statistics releases data on "Jail Inmates in 2021" and "Prisoners in 2021"

Just in time to ring in 2023, the Bureau of Justice Statistics in the US Department of Justice has a lot of great new data about incarceration levels and rates as of the end of 2021. This press release, titled "U.S. Jail Population Increased While Prison Population Decreased in 2021," provides these highlights (and links) to the lastest data:

The Bureau of Justice Statistics is announcing the release of statistical tables on Jail Inmates in 2021 and Prisoners in 2021. Of note, the two incarcerated populations diverged in 2021, with the number of persons held in local jails increasing by 16% from 2020, while the number of persons in prison decreased 1%.  Both populations decreased from 2019 to 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Regarding the jail population, local jails held 636,300 persons on the last weekday in June 2021, up from 549,100 at midyear 2020.  The number of males confined in local jails increased 15% from 2020 to 2021, while females increased 22%.

The racial and ethnic composition of people held in local jails remained stable from 2020 to 2021.  At midyear 2021, about 49% of people in local jails were white, 35% were black, and 14% were Hispanic. American Indians or Alaska Natives; Asians, Native Hawaiians, or Other Pacific Islanders; and persons of two or more races together accounted for 2% of the total jail population.

At midyear 2021, 29% of persons held in jail (185,000) were convicted, either serving a sentence or awaiting sentencing on a conviction, while 71% (451,400) were unconvicted, awaiting court action on a current charge or held in jail for other reasons.  Unconvicted people in jail accounted for 81% of the increase in the jail population from midyear 2020 to midyear 2021.  Three-quarters (76%) of all persons incarcerated in local jails at midyear 2021 were held for felony offenses (485,700 persons) compared to 18% (114,000) for misdemeanors and 6% (36,600) for other types of offenses.

Based on the occupancy rate, jails are still less crowded than about a decade ago.  At midyear 2021, about 70% of jail beds were occupied, which is higher than the occupancy rate of 60% at midyear 2020 but lower than the rates from 2011 to 2019, which ranged from 81% to 85%.

The number of persons supervised by local jails outside of a jail facility increased by 12,100 (31%) from midyear 2020 to midyear 2021.  At midyear 2021, local jails supervised 50,800 persons in various programs, such as electronic monitoring, home detention, day reporting, community service, alcohol or drug treatment programs, and other pretrial supervision and work programs outside of a jail facility.

Regarding the U.S. prison population, for the eighth consecutive year, the number of persons held in U.S. prisons declined, dropping from 1,221,200 at yearend 2020 to 1,204,300 at yearend 2021.  The overall decline reflected a decrease in prison populations in 32 states that was offset by an increase in 17 states and the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP). This one-year change is vastly different from 2019 to 2020, when 49 states (data for Idaho are not comparable) and the BOP had a decrease in the number of persons in prison, largely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The imprisonment rate for adult U.S. residents in state or federal prison serving a sentence of more than one year also declined (down 2%) from yearend 2020 to 2021, from 460 to 449 sentenced prisoners per 100,000 adult U.S. residents.  Over the 10-year period from 2011 to 2021, the adult imprisonment rate declined 30%.

Among racial and ethnic groups, black persons had the highest imprisonment rate in 2021 (1,186 per 100,000 adult black residents), followed by American Indian/Alaska Natives (1,004 per 100,000), Hispanics (619 per 100,00), whites (222 per 100,000) and Asians (90 per 100,000).  Compared to 2011, adult imprisonment rates declined for all racial and ethnic groups in 2021, including a 40% decrease for black persons, 37% for Hispanics, 34% for Asians, 27% for whites, and 26% for American Indian/Alaska Natives.

Regarding the offense for which people were imprisoned, more than 651,800 persons (62% of all state prisoners) were serving sentences in state prison for a violent offense at yearend 2020, the most recent year for which offense data were available.  Forty-seven percent (66,500) of all persons in federal prison were serving time for a drug offense on September 30, 2021 (the most recent date for which federal prison offense data were available), and an additional 20% (28,500) of persons sentenced to federal prison were serving a sentence for a weapons offense.

At yearend 2021, private facilities contracted to state departments of corrections or the BOP held 96,700 persons, a 3% decrease from yearend 2020.  Local jail facilities held an additional 65,400 state or federal prisoners, down 11% from yearend 2020.  Together, private and local facilities housed more than 13% of the total U.S. prison population in 2021.

The findings in the Jail Inmates in 2021 – Statistical Tables report are based on data from BJS’s Annual Survey of Jails, which BJS has conducted annually since 1982, and Census of Jails, which BJS has conducted periodically since 1970. It is the 35th report in a series that began in 1982.  Findings in the Prisoners in 2021 – Statistical Tables report, the 96th report in the series, are based on data from BJS’s National Prisoner Statistics program, which has collected data on the U.S. prison population annually since 1926.

Jail Inmates in 2021 – Statistical Tables (NCJ 304888) was written by BJS Statistician Zhen Zeng, PhD. Prisoners in 2021 – Statistical Tables (NCJ 305125) was written by BJS Statistician E. Ann Carson, PhD. 

December 20, 2022 in Data on sentencing, Detailed sentencing data, Prisons and prisoners, Scope of Imprisonment | Permalink | Comments (3)

Friday, December 16, 2022

DPIC releases year-end report emphasizing botched executions and no 2022 increases in death penalty support

The Death Penalty Information Center this morning released this annual report under the heading "The Death Penalty in 2022: Year End Report; Public Support for Death Penalty at Near-Record Low Despite Perception that Violent Crime is Up."  Here is the start of the report's introduction, with lots and lots of interesting capital punishment data and discussion thereafter:

In a year awash with incendiary political advertising that drove the public’s perception of rising crime to record highs, public support for capital punishment and jury verdicts for death remained near fifty-year lows.  Defying conventional political wisdom, nearly every measure of change — from new death sentences imposed and executions conducted to public opinion polls and election results — pointed to the continuing durability of the more than 20-year sustained decline of the death penalty in the United States.

The Gallup crime survey, administered in the midst of the midterm elections while the capital trial for the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida was underway, found that support for capital punishment remained within one percentage point of the half-century lows recorded in 2020 and 2021.  The 22 new death sentences imposed in 2022 are fewer than in any year before the pandemic, and just 4 higher than the record lows of the prior two years.  With the exception of the pandemic years of 2020 and 2021, the 18 executions in 2022 are the fewest since 1991.

One by one, states continued their movement away from the death penalty.  On December 13, 2022, Oregon Governor Kate Brown announced the commutation of the capital sentences of all 17 death-row prisoners and instructed corrections officials to begin dismantling the state’s execution chamber.  The commutations completed what she called the “near abolition” of the death penalty by the state legislature in 2019.  Thirty-seven states — nearly three-quarters of the country — have now abolished the death penalty or not carried out an execution in more than a decade.

For the eighth consecutive year, fewer than 30 people were executed and fewer than 50 people were sentenced to death.  The five-year average of new death sentences, 27* per year, is the lowest in 50 years.  The five-year average of executions, 18.6 per year, is the lowest in more than 30 years, a 74% decline over the course of one decade.  Death row declined in size for the 21st consecutive year, even before Governor Brown commuted the sentences of the 17 prisoners on Oregon’s death row.

2022 could be called “the year of the botched execution” because of the high number of states with failed or bungled executions. Seven of the 20 execution attempts were visibly problematic — an astonishing 35% — as a result of executioner incompetence, failures to follow protocols, or defects in the protocols themselves.  On July 28, 2022, executioners in Alabama took three hours to set an IV line before putting Joe James Jr. to death, the longest botched lethal injection execution in U.S. history.  Executions were put on hold in Alabama, Tennessee, Idaho, and South Carolina when the states were unable to follow execution protocols.  Idaho scheduled an execution without the drugs to carry it out.  One execution did not occur in Oklahoma because the state did not have custody of the prisoner and had not made arrangements for his transfer before scheduling him to be put to death.

December 16, 2022 in Data on sentencing, Death Penalty Reforms, Detailed sentencing data | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, November 09, 2022

New DPIC analysis finds "murder rates during the pandemic were highest in states with the death penalty"

2020-Pandemic-Murder-RatesThe Death Penalty Information Center has posted this notable new review of murder data under the heading "DPIC Analysis: Pandemic Murder Rates Highest in Death Penalty States." I recoemmend the full posting, and here are excerpts (with links and the chart from the original, footnotes removed):

A DPIC analysis of 2020 U.S. homicide data has found that murder rates during the pandemic were highest in states with the death penalty and lowest in long-time abolitionist states.

DPIC reviewed the 2020 murder data compiled by the center-left think tank The Third Way for its March 2022 report, The Red State Murder Problem.  Then, taking the analysis out of the realm of politics and into the context of public policy, DPIC compared the data to states’ death-penalty status and historic usage of the death penalty.  That analysis found that pandemic murder rates generally correlated not just with the presence or absence of the death penalty in a state but with the states’ general level of death-penalty usage.

The data show that nine of the ten states with the highest pandemic murder rates — ranging from 9.9 to 20.5 murders per 10,000 residents — are death penalty states. On the other hand, eight of the eleven states with the lowest pandemic murder rates — ranging from 0.88 to 3.49 murders per 10,000 residents — had abolished the death penalty. DPIC found that the three death penalty states with the lowest pandemic murder rates — all 2.89 murders per 10,000 residents — have not carried out an execution in more than a decade, and one had a gubernatorial moratorium on executions.

Murder rates in the mostly high death-penalty usage, high pandemic-murder-rate states ranged from roughly triple to 23 times higher than in the mostly no death penalty, low pandemic-murder-rate states.

More than half of all death penalty states (14 of 27) had murder pandemic murder rates of at least 7.00 per 100,000 residents, and 30 percent (8 states) had pandemic murder rates of 10.29 per 100,000 residents or higher. By contrast, nearly two-thirds of the states that had abolished the death penalty (15 of 23) had pandemic murder rates of 5.14 or less per 100,000 residents, more than a third (8 states) had pandemic murder rates below 3.5 murders per 100,000 residents....

DPIC’s review of The Third Way pandemic murder data found that 15 of the 20 states with the highest pandemic murder rates are death penalty states, of which 12 have carried out 20 or more executions each in the past half century. Collectively, these 12 states have accounted for more than three quarters of all executions in the U.S. since the 1970s.

At the other end of the spectrum, none of the 23 states with the lowest pandemic murder rates are historically heavy users of capital punishment. Fifteen had abolished the death penalty, including nine who had not had the death penalty at any time during the 21st century.  The eight death penalty states with the lowest pandemic murder rates include two with moratoria on executions, six who have executed five or fewer people in the past half century, one that has carried out seven executions, and six who have not executed anyone in more than a decade.

Twenty U.S. states have carried out ten or more executions in the past half-century.  All of them, including three who have since abolished the death penalty, are among the 28 states with the highest pandemic murder rates.

November 9, 2022 in Data on sentencing, Death Penalty Reforms, Detailed sentencing data | Permalink | Comments (4)

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

Notable new research on modern operation and impact of Three Strikes law in California

I just came across this notable new report from the California Policy Lab released a couple of months ago titled simply "Three Strikes in California." Here is the 45-page report's listing of "Key Findings" (with bolding in the original):

October 11, 2022 in Data on sentencing, Detailed sentencing data, Mandatory minimum sentencing statutes, Offender Characteristics, Offense Characteristics, Procedure and Proof at Sentencing, Race, Class, and Gender, State Sentencing Guidelines, Who Sentences | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, September 15, 2022

"Where Black Lives Matter Less: Understanding the Impact of Black Victims on Sentencing Outcomes in Texas Capital Murder Cases from 1973 to 2018"

The title of this post is the title of this recent article published in the Saint Louis University Law Journal authored by Jelani Jefferson Exum and David Niven.  Here is part of its abstract:

Scholars and advocates have long acknowledged that the death penalty is disproportionately applied to Black offenders.  It is also well known that the race of a victim is a leading factor in a capital defendant’s risk of receiving the death penalty, with those convicted of murdering whites significantly more likely to receive the death penalty than those convicted of murdering Blacks.  This Article takes an in-depth look at statistics covering the sentencing outcomes in capital murder cases in Texas from 1973 to 2018, revealing the clear evidence that race matters in the imposition of the death penalty.  However, this Article does not simply join the chorus of voices that have recognized the racial disparity in the death penalty.  Rather, the authors argue that the lesson from the Black victim effect on the death penalty decision fits into the broader, historic, and present-day context of devaluing Black lives. As the Texas example provides, the devaluing effect of Blackness is apparent.  This is not simply a failure to recognize the value of Black lives — as the Black Lives Matter movement exposes — but a reflection of the societal view that Blackness actually reduces the value and importance of all things — from property to community spaces to ultimate humanity. In life, Black people are vastly under-protected by the law, and the same is true for Black people even in a system designed to exact retribution for death.  When we accept the fact that the death penalty reveals that Black deaths do not matter, then it becomes apparent that there is not an antiracist fix for the death penalty other than its abolition.

In this Article, the authors present the most comprehensive data ever assembled on capital murder cases in Texas to affirm that the scope of the race of victim difference is jarring.  This data shows how pervasive race is in death penalty outcomes.  In every single comparison the racial disparity was statistically significant, and harsher punishment was associated with white victims than with African American victims, who clearly mattered less.  The truth, of course, is that Black victims matter as much as any, even if the legal system and society haven’t recognized their value. Within a database of thousands of cases there are thousands of tragic stories of lives upended by acts of an almost unspeakable nature.  The details differ from case to case, but across all those thousands of cases the race of victim disparity persists.  The math is straightforward.  Indeed, the odds against the patterns seen here — emerging by chance — are truly astronomical.  The race of the victim matters in the Texas criminal justice system.

As a matter of jurisprudence and policy making, however, the meaning of this data is uncertain.  When legislators debate the death penalty, racial disparities are among the most frequently cited concerns of opponents of the death penalty.  Supporters of the death penalty, however, dispute both the math and the meaning of findings of racial disparities, taking particular offense at the suggestion that race influences sentencing or influences their own views. These authors argue that abolition is the only corrective approach.  We must make the radical choice to uproot systems, like the death penalty, that allow the anti-Black biases in our national consciousness to not only thrive, but to be just.  To do otherwise is to perpetuate a system where Black lives matter less.

September 15, 2022 in Death Penalty Reforms, Detailed sentencing data, Race, Class, and Gender | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 12, 2022

US Sentencing Commission releases latest "Compassionate Release Data Report" with detailed data through March 2022

I just noticed that the US Sentencing Commission late last week published this updated compassionate release data report, which includes data on all "motions decided by the courts during fiscal years 2020, 2021, and the first half of 2022 (October 1, 2019 – March 31, 2022)."   As I have noted with prior data runs, there are lots and lots of interesting data points throughout this report covering the period just before, during and after the heights of the COVID pandemic.  

As I also have noted before, perhaps most striking data points are the dramatic variations in grant rates from various districts.  As but one of many remarkable examples, I must note again the stark disparities in the three districts of Georgia: the Southern District of Georgia granted only 6 out of 272 sentence reduction motions for a 2.2% grant rate; the Middle District of Georgia granted only 4 out of 238 sentence reduction motions for a 1.7% grant rate; but the Northern District of Georgia granted 80 out of 174 sentence reduction motions for a 46% grant rate.  And the District of Maryland — with a total of 244 sentencing reduction motions granted (though "only" a grant rate of 33%) — granted more of these motions than all the courts of five different circuits (and circuit grant rates ranged from a low of 9.8% in the Fifth Circuit to a high of 29.6% in the First Circuit).

I expect the newly confirmed Sentencing Commission will be giving these data a good luck as the consider revisions to the out-of-data guideline that is supposed to help courts considering sentencing revision motions brought under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(1)(A).  

September 12, 2022 in Data on sentencing, Detailed sentencing data, Sentences Reconsidered, Who Sentences | Permalink | Comments (1)