Published on: Friday, June 5, 2020

In its recent report, Length of Incarceration and Recidivism (April 29, 2020), the U.S. Sentencing Commission claimed to have found that incarceration lengths of more than 120 months had a deterrent effect on recidivism. This report is misleading and flawed in several respects.  It should not be relied on by policymakers or judges.

Two linked documents below prepared by Sentencing Resource Counsel respond to this report:

The Federal Defender Fact Sheet: Flawed U.S. Sentencing Commission Report Misstates Current Knowledge is a full critique of the report prepared by SRC Policy Analyst, Paul Hofer. Some of the problems with this report include:

  • it badly misrepresents prior research;
  • it used a relatively weak methodology for identifying causal effects, which could not control for unknown and potentially significant differences among the groups; and
  • it presents results in a misleading and exaggerated way.

Because the Commission has released a flawed report on a controversial matter of public policy, Defenders have asked that the data underlying the report be immediately released so that it can be reviewed and replicated by outside researchers.

The Incarceration and Recidivism Practitioner Cheat Sheet is a two-page summary of the five main points practitioners should know about this report.

The Training Division and Sentencing Resource Counsel provide resource materials here to help you argue for the best sentence possible for your clients.