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Federal Prison Terms Increasing

Offenders sentenced under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines are more likely to go to prison and to stay there longer than were offenders sentenced for crimes committed before the guidelines took effect in November, 1987,according to U.S. Justice Departments Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS). BJS said that in 1990 about 74 percent of the defendants sentenced under the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984 were sent to prison, compared to about 52 percent of the pre-guideline defendants sentenced in 1986.

"The advent of Federal Sentencing Guidelines has accompanied a substantial increase in the probability of imprisonment for a large number of crimes," commented BJS Director Steven Dillingham. "In 1986 about 77 percent of those convicted of drug crimes received prison terms. By 1990 approximately 89 percent of drug offenders sentenced under the guidelines received prison terms."

Although the Sentencing Reform Act abolished release from prison by a parole board decision, the Sentencing Commission enabled judges to sentence offenders to prison terms followed by a specific period of post release supervision. During the first six months of 1990 about 69 percent of the offenders sentenced under the guidelines were given post release supervision terms averaging 42 months. Copies of the report, Federal Sentencing in Transition, are available from The Bureau of Justice Statistics Clearinghouse, Box 6000, Rockville, MD 20850. Phone 1-800-732-3277.

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