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Felony Sentencing in 18 Local Jurisdictions

NCJ Number
Date Published
June 1985
Sentencing outcomes in the felony courts of 18 predominantly urban jurisdictions were examined using case-specific data on the sentences imposed on more than 15,000 felony offenders in 1983. Sentencing data came mainly from the entire county or independent city.

The average populations of the jurisdictions studied was nearly 900,000. Located in 15 States, the jurisdictions are distributed across the major geographical regions of the country. Offenses studied included homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, and drug trafficking. Of sentences, 45 percent were to State prisons, 26 percent to local jails, and 28 percent were probation only. Those convicted of homicide were most likely to receive a prison sentence, while drug traffickers were least likely to receive a prison sentence. Average prison sentences for each crime varied among jurisdictions but were consistent within each jurisdiction. Fifteen data tables present statistics on distribution of sentences; average sentence length, by conviction offense; average prison sentence length in years for each conviction offense; jail sentences; use of incarceration; distribution of sentences for burglary; sentences to prison; and more. Results suggest that, although felony sentences are sometimes thought of as involving prison incarceration, sentencing actually involves a broader range of outcomes and up to three separate judicial decisions. A listing of Bureau of Justice statistics reports is included.

Date Published: June 1, 1985