Published on: Tuesday, October 26, 2021

This past month, federal sentencing statistics became even more important for defense lawyers. The U.S. Sentencing Commission released the Judiciary Sentencing INformation platform, or JSIN — a new data tool that provides judges and the public with online access to limited sentencing data for similarly situated defendants (article available here).

The problem is that JSIN has deep flaws that create a misleading picture of sentencing.

JSIN provides averages and medians for federal sentences in the last five years, but it deliberately omits almost all lower sentences and it deliberately retains all higher sentences. Most notably, its averages and medians are only for sentences of imprisonment.

In other words, JSIN deliberately excludes all sentences of probation, fines or home confinement. It takes all sentences of zero prison time out of the dataset before the math is done. It also excludes all Section 5K1.1 departures, known as cooperators. At the same time, JSIN retains all above-guidelines sentences and all mandatory minimum sentences.

In this way, JSIN pushes up the average and median sentences it reports, and issues data that encourages judges to impose higher sentences.

But defense lawyers can address these flaws by giving judges the rest of the story: a full distribution of the cases in the relevant box on the federal sentencing table. They can accomplish that by examining the U.S. Sentencing Commission's full dataset outside of JSIN.

The Training Division's webinar on November 9, 2021, at 1 p.m. EST, JSIN: A Defense Attorney Guide to the Commission’s New Tool, will explore JSIN's capabilities and limitations and discuss how the tool may affect defense strategies at sentencing (and beyond). Register Here.