Research Publications

2016

This report provides a broad overview of key findings from the United States Sentencing Commission’s study of recidivism of federal offenders. The Commission studied offenders who were either released from federal prison after serving a sentence of imprisonment or placed on a term of probation in 2005. In the future, the Commission will release additional publications discussing specific topics concerning recidivism of federal offenders. (March 2016)

This report examines sentence reductions for offenders who cooperate with the government in its efforts to investigate or prosecute others. Offenders can receive credit for their “substantial assistance” in at least two ways; at the time of sentencing (USSG §5K1.1 departure motions) and after sentencing (Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 35(b) motions). In both instances, the government must make a motion for a lower sentence. (February 2016)

2015

This paper provides an overview of the federal sentencing system. For context, it first briefly discusses the evolution of federal sentencing during the past four decades, including the landmark passage of the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984, as well as key Supreme Court decisions concerning the guidelines. It then describes the nature of federal sentences today and the process by which such sentences are imposed. (September 2015)

This publication presents a broad overview of federal sentencing data for fiscal year 2014. It provides a brief, easy-to-use reference on the types of criminal cases handled by federal courts and the punishments imposed on offenders convicted in those cases. (August 2015)

The Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 (FSA) reduced the statutory penalties for crack cocaine offenses to produce an 18-to-1 crack-to-powder drug quantity ratio. This report assesses the impact of the FSA on the federal criminal justice system. (August 2015)

As a supplement to the 2009 publication, the Commission is releasing this new report, using data from 2005 through 2014, to examine more recent trends in the rates of alternative sentences using a methodology that expands that of the prior report. (May 2015)

This report focuses on offenders sentenced under USSG §2L1.2, including their criminal histories, number of prior deportations, and personal characteristics. (April 2015)

This publication discusses the use of life sentences in the federal system and the cases in which the sentencing guidelines recommend that sentence be imposed. (February 2015)

2014

This publication presents a broad overview of federal sentencing data for fiscal year 2013. It provides a brief, easy-to-use reference on the types of criminal cases handled by federal courts and the punishments imposed on offenders convicted in those cases. (August 2014)

This publication provides an updated recidivism analysis of crack cocaine offenders who were released early after implementation of a 2007 guidelines amendment which retroactively reduced by two levels the base offense levels assigned by the Drug Quantity Table for crack cocaine. In this five-year study, these offenders were compared with similarly situated offenders who served their original sentences. (May 2014)

2013

This publication presents a broad overview of federal sentencing data for fiscal year 2012. It provides a brief, easy-to-use reference on the types of criminal cases handled by federal courts and the punishments imposed on offenders convicted in those cases. (July 2013)

2012

This report assesses the continuing impact on the federal sentencing system of the Supreme Court's 2005 opinion in United States v. Booker, which rendered the sentencing guidelines advisory. (December 2012)

This publication presents a broad overview of federal sentencing data for fiscal year 2011. It provides a brief, easy-to-use reference on the types of criminal cases handled by federal courts and the punishments imposed on offenders convicted in those cases. (September 2012)

This publication presents a broad overview of federal sentencing data for fiscal year 2010. It provides a brief, easy-to-use reference on the types of criminal cases handled by federal courts and the punishments imposed on offenders convicted in those cases. (July 2012)

2010

This publication provides a broad overview of federal sentencing data for fiscal year 2009. Readers will find this publication to be a brief, easy-to-use reference on the types of criminal cases handled by the federal courts and the punishments imposed on the offenders convicted in those cases. (December 2010)

This document provides certain information considered by the Commission as part of its determination to amend the guideines to eliminate the consideration of "recency" points provided in USSG §4A1.1(e). That amendment, amendment number 5, currently is pending before Congress as part of the package of amendments submitted to Congress on April 29, 2010. The amendment has a specified effective date of November 1, 2010. (August 2010)

This paper explains the way in which the Commission collects sentencing information, and discusses analytical issues that may arise when using the Commission's sentencing data. (August 2010)

This report provides a comprehensive review of the legal and data issues related to the imposition, modification, and revocation of federal supervised release. (July 2010)

A report updating the Commission's data analysis concerning demographic differences in federal sentencing practices set forth in Chapter 5 of the Commission's 2006 Final Report on the Impact of United States v. Booker on Federal Sentencing. (March 2010)

2009

This report introduces the process the United States Sentencing Commission uses to create its fiscal year individual offender datafiles from documents submitted to the Commission. Issues surrounding the use of differing form types and conflicting information among documents are also addressed. The report is designed to help researchers use the Commission's datafiles by providing answers to common data analysis questions. (May 2009)

This report provides an analysis of the role of convictions for prior minor offenses in the sentences of federal offenders. It examines the extent to which convictions for prior minor offenses may prevent drug trafficking offenders from receiving a sentence below the statutory mandatory minimum punishments for drug trafficking crimes. The publication utilizes data drawn from a large research sample of offenders sentenced in fiscal year 2006. (March 2009)

2008

This publication provides an overview of the number and types of offenses tried in the federal courts and the people who commit them. It examines the growth in the federal criminal case load over a 17-year period, and the changing trends in the types of crime committed and the demographic characteristics of the offenders who commit these crimes. The publication reviews data reported to the United States Sentencing Commission for fiscal year 1991 through fiscal year 2007. (December 2008)

This publication provides a broad overview of federal sentencing data for fiscal year 2007. Readers will find this publication to be a brief, easy-to-use reference on the types of criminal cases handled by the federal courts and the punishments imposed on the offenders convicted in those cases. (December 2008)

This Report responds to the directive in the Emergency and Disaster Assistance Fraud Penalty Enhancement Act of 2007 (the "Disaster Fraud Act"), Pub. L. No. 110–179, 121 Stat. 2556, signed by the President on January 7, 2008. The Report discusses the Disaster Fraud Act and its legislative history and explains the actions taken by the U.S. Sentencing Commission ("Commission") pursuant to the congressional directive in the Disaster Fraud Act and the Commission’s policy recommendations for combating disaster fraud offenses. (September 2008)

2007

This is the Commission's fourth report to Congress on the subject of federal cocaine sentencing policy. The report updates much of the data and information contained in previous Commission reports and provides recommendations to Congress for modifications to the statutory penalty structure for federal cocaine offenses. (May 2007)

2005

The third release in the Research Series on the Recidivism of Federal Offenders describes the empirical foundations of the guidelines' Chapter Four Criminal History Category and its links to the Salient Factor Score risk prediction instrument developed by the U.S. Parole Commission. The report documents the comparative recidivism predictive power of both measures, both for their individual component elements, and for their total formulations. The analysis measures the predictive power of hypothetical reformulations of the Criminal History Category, reporting a suggested impact of age and first offender elements upon guideline recidivism prediction. (January 4, 2005)

2004

This second release in the Research Series on the Recidivism of Federal Offenders provides an empirical foundation for the Commission's study of recidivism rates among federal offenders with little or no criminal history prior to the federal instant offense. Using definitional frameworks established in several earlier Commission staff working group studies on "first offenders," the data documents recidivism risk for three plausible first offender groupings. The analysis reports that recidivism risk is lowest for those offenders with least experience in the criminal justice system. (May 2004)

The first release in the Research Series on the Recidivism of Federal Offenders, this report examines in detail the predictive statistical power of the Chapter Four Criminal History guidelines. The study uses pre-conviction and instant offense information for a sample of guideline federal offenders sentenced in fiscal year 1992, matched with their post-sentencing criminal behavior collected from FBI records. Both tabular and statistical models of recidivism outcomes report findings by criminal history category and point groupings, as well as by offender demographics, instant offense characteristics, and recidivating offense types. (May 2004)

2003

This report contains the findings and recommendations of the ad hoc Native American Advisory Group. (November 4, 2003)

The United States Sentencing Commission submits this report in direct response to section 401(m) of the Prosecutorial Remedies and Other Tools to end the Exploitation of Children Today Act of 2003, Pub. L. No. 108-21 [the “PROTECT Act”], and as part of its overall fifteen year review of the federal sentencing guidelines. The PROTECT Act was enacted on April 30, 2003, and directed the Commission, not later than 180 days after the enactment of the Act, to promulgate appropriate amendments to the sentencing guidelines, policy statements, and official commentary to ensure, among other things, that the incidence of downward departures is substantially reduced.. (October 2003)

This report is submitted pursuant to section 314 of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, Pub. L. 107-155 (the “Act”). Section 314 required the United States Sentencing Commission (the “Commission”) to promulgate a guideline “for penalties for violations of the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971.” The Commission, acting under emergency authority conferred by the Act, promulgated an amendment, effective January 25, 2003, which created an temporary guideline for campaign finance offenses. That guideline was repromulgated without change as a permanent amendment in March 2003 and, subject to congressional review, will become effective on November 1, 2003. (May 2003)

This report is submitted pursuant to section 225(c) of the Homeland Security Act of 2002, requiring the Commission to submit a report explaining actions taken in response to the Cyber Security Enhancement Act of 2002, and offering policy recommendations regarding statutory penalties. The Commission specifically considered enumerated in the directive, and considered the extent to which each was or was not accounted for by existing sentencing guidelines and policy statements. The Commission promulgated an amendment designed to more fully account for specific factors relevant to computer offenses. (May 2003)

This report is submitted pursuant to section 1104(a)(3) of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, which requires the Commission to “expeditiously consider the promulgation of new sentencing guidelines or amendments to existing sentencing guidelines to provide an enhancement for officers or directors of publicly traded corporations who commit fraud and related offenses.” The directives require the Commission to address officers and directors of publicly traded companies who commit fraud and related offenses, fraud offenses that endanger the solvency or financial security of a substantial number of victims, fraud offenses that involve significantly greater than 50 victims, and obstruction of justice offenses that involve the destruction of evidence. (January 2003)

2001

This report is submitted pursuant to section 3663(e) of the Ecstasy Anti-Proliferation Act of 2000. Congress directed the commission to amend the Federal sentencing guidelines regarding any offense relating to the manufacture, importation, or exportation of, or trafficking in MDMA. This report provides a brief explanation of the guideline amendments promulgated pursuant to the Act. (May 2001)

1999

This five-page report updates developments regarding commissioner vacancies and the ongoing work of the agency. (September 1999)

This seven-page report outlines Commission activities and developments regarding Commissioner vacancies, recent guideline amendments, the ongoing work of the agency, and the increase in reported cases during the past fiscal year of 1998. (March 1999)

1998

This ten-page report highlights the accomplishments of the U.S. Sentencing Commission during 1997-1998. The document describes recent achievements in areas including policy development; resolution of circuit conflicts; appellate review of guideline departures; legislative initiatives; training and education activities; research studies; and identifies areas for future study. (July 1998)

This Report to Congress is submitted pursuant to the directive in the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 which states - The Commission shall review and amend the sentencing guidelines to ensure that victim related adjustments for fraud offenses against older victims over the age of 55 are adequate. The Commission sought to measure the degree to which sentencing judges are using available guideline mechanisms for providing higher sentences when older fraud victims are involved, and relatedly, whether the case law or empirical data suggest any significant dissatisfaction with available penalty levels. (March 1998)

This exploratory research report examines the guidelines' "substantial assistance" policy statement in light of the guidelines' overall statutory goal of fair and honest sentencing. The study focused on whether different districts' policies and procedures were consistent and whether similar defendants were receiving similar sentence reductions for providing similar assistance. (January 1998)

1997

This report responds to a congressional directive to comment on the Department of Justice's report on federal prosecutorial charging and plea practices affecting money laundering offenses. ( September 1997)

This report contains the Commission's recommendations on federal sentencing policy for cocaine offenses. Appended to this report is Vice Chairman Michael Gelacak's Concurring Opinion. (April 1997)

In this study, more than 1,700 citizens throughout the U.S. provided their opinions on "just punishment" and crime seriousness issues. This paper describes the survey and its methodology, comparing public attitudes with the corresponding sentencing guideline ranges for four selected federal offenses: drug trafficking, bank robbery, immigration offenses, and fraud. (March 1997)

1996

This publication provides selected articles highlighting the thoughts of the initial members of the Commission and staff and discuss the philosophies behind the current guideline structure. (September 1996)

Congress has directed the Commission, pursuant to Section 805 of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, to review the deterrent effect of existing guidelines as they apply to computer crimes – which prohibit unauthorized access of a federal government data base for the purpose of obtaining information to perpetrate a fraud and the transmission of a program, information, code, or command to a computer system used in interstate commerce or communication for the purpose of damaging such a system or with reckless disregard for the possibility that such damage will occur. (June 1996)

1995

This report discusses the operation of the sentencing guidelines with regard to federal rape cases, compares federal and state penalties for sexual assault, analyzes Sentencing Commission sexual abuse data, and analyzes public comment and expert opinion on pertinent issues. (March 1995)

In this report, the Commission considers whether revisions to the sentencing guidelines were needed to accommodate offenses involving willful exposure to HIV. The report examines (1) the operation of the guidelines given the absence of a specific federal statute punishing the intentional transmission of HIV; (2) cases sentenced in fiscal year 1993 to determine the frequency with which HIV exposure was an issue at sentencing; and (3) pertinent case law. (March 1995)

1992

This publication provides selected articles on the early years of the federal sentencing guidelines system. (June 1992)

1990

Report from the Alternatives to Imprisonment Project. (December 1990)