Repeal of Mandatory Minimum Sentencing not Looking Good

by Glenn Brenner

Posted on March 03, 2017 11:55 AM

The UNITED STATES SENTENCING COMMISSION (USSC) conducted a study of recidivism rates among federal offenders sentenced in the past few years. the results are not great for those who fight to abolish the mandatory sentencing minimums in drug offenses.
Report Highlights

Some highlights of the Commission’s study are that:

Over the eight-year follow-up period, one-half (50.0%) of federal drug trafficking offenders were rearrested (see bar chart). Of those drug trafficking offenders who recidivated, the median time to rearrest was 25 months.

In general, there were few clear distinctions among the five drug types studied. One exception is that crack cocaine offenders recidivated at the highest rate (60.8%) of any drug type. Recidivism rates for other drug types were between 43.8% and 50.0% (see table).

Nearly one-fourth (23.8%) of drug trafficking offenders who recidivated had assault as their most serious new charge followed by drug trafficking and public order offenses.

Federal drug trafficking offenders had a substantially lower recidivism rate compared to a cohort of state drug offenders released into the community in 2005 and tracked by the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Over two-thirds (76.9%) of state drug offenders released from state prison were rearrested within five years, compared to 41.9% of federal drug trafficking offenders released from prison over the same five-year period.

A federal drug trafficking offender’s Criminal History Category was closely associated with the likelihood of recidivism (see bar chart). But note that career offenders and armed career criminals recidivated at a rate lower than drug trafficking offenders classified in Criminal History Categories IV, V, and VI. (Related data and policy recommendations are discussed in the Commission's 2016 Report to the Congress on Career Offender Sentencing Enhancements.)

A federal drug trafficking offender’s age at time of release into the community was also closely associated with likelihood of recidivism (see bar chart).


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