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Over 5,000 Prisoners Federally Sentenced Every Month

by Douglas Ankney

In the nine months ending on June 30, 2023, there were 47,931 sentences for federal crime, driving more than 5,000 prisoners into custody of the federal Bureau of Prisons every month, according to data released by the U.S. Sentencing Commission on September 21, 2023.

Most of those sentences were drug-related: Drug trafficking (14,276) and drug possession (108) combined for a total of 14,384, representing 30% of the total. Sentences for immigration offenses (14,248 or 29.7%) followed in second place. In a distant third were crimes involving firearms at 6,613 (13.8%). The lowest category, Antitrust, had nine sentences (less than 0.1%).

The report broke down the number of sentences in each of the federal circuits. Those were further detailed by each district or state within the circuit. Leading the way was the Fifth Circuit with 12,833, or 26.8% of all U.S. sentences. Most of those, 11,921, were in Texas. The Ninth Circuit was second with 9,331, or 19.5% of all sentences. As might be expected, 3,786 of those sentencings occurred in populous California. But a surprisingly similar number, 3,748 sentencings, were in less populated Arizona, probably reflecting the outsized number of immigration sentences there. Rounding out the top three was the Eleventh Circuit with 3,991 (8.3%) sentences, of which 2,292 were in Florida. Unsurprisingly, the D.C. Circuit had the fewest sentencings with 357 (0.7%).

A look at sentencings by race or ethnicity shows that drug trafficking accounts for most sentences handed both to Black defendants (3,637 of 10,597 total) and to White defendants (3,931 of 11,693 total). Immigration was the number one offense for which Hispanic defendants were sentenced (13,191 of 23,258 total). White defendants accounted for 77.0% of sentences for Child Pornography, while Black defendants accounted for 59.3% of sentences for robbery.

The Commission’s Annual Report and Sourcebook of Federal Sentencing Statistics is available at See: U.S. Sentencing Commission Quarterly Data Report, 3rd Quarter Release, Preliminary Fiscal Year 2023 Data Through June 30, 2023.   

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