Recidivism and Effects of Aging Among Federal Offenders

In 2017, the Sentencing Commission put out a report on the Effects of Aging on Recidivism. This may be important in your 3582 motions.

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All, in 2017 the United States Sentencing Commission published a report on “the Effects of Aging on Recidivism Among Federal Offenders.” If you are seeking a reduction because of COVID-19 or any other reason, this may come in handy as you are showing that the 3553(a) factors result in your favor for you to receive a reduction.

What is the United States Sentencing Commission?

The United States Sentencing Commission is an independent agency in the judicial branch of government. Its principal purposes are:

(1) to establish sentencing policies and practices for the federal courts, including guidelines to be consulted regarding the appropriate form and severity of punishment for offenders convicted of federal crimes;

(2) to advise and assist Congress and the executive branch in the development of effective and efficient crime policy; and

(3) to collect, analyze, research, and distribute a broad array of information on federal crime and sentencing issues, serving as an information resource for Congress, the executive branch, the courts, criminal justice practitioners, the academic community, and the public.

United States Sentencing Commission Rules of Practice and Procedure

The Study: Effects of Aging on Recidivism Among Federal Offenders

The Study, “The Effects of Aging on recidivism among Federal Offenders” is Available here.

Key Findings

• Older offenders were substantially less likely than younger offenders to recidivate following release. Over an eight-year follow-up period, 13.4 percent of offenders age 65 or older at the time of release were rearrested compared to 67.6 percent of offenders younger than age 21 at the time of release. The pattern was consistent across age groupings, and recidivism measured by rearrest, reconviction, and reincarceration declined as age increased.

Age and Charges with Recidivism Charge

• For federal offenders under age 30 at the time of release, over
one-fourth (26.6%) who recidivated had assault as their most common
new charge.

By comparison, for offenders 60 years old or older at the
time of release, almost one quarter (23.7%) who recidivated had a
public order offense as their most serious new charge.

Age and Criminal History Has Strong Influence on Recidivism

• Age and criminal history exerted a strong influence on recidivism. For offenders in Criminal History Category I, the rearrest rate ranged from 53.0 percent for offenders younger than age 30 at the time of release to 11.3 percent for offenders age 60 or older.

For offenders in Criminal History Category VI, the rearrest rate ranged from 89.7 percent for offenders younger than age 30 at the time of release to 37.7 percent for offenders age 60 or older.

Recidivism and Education with Age

• Education level influenced recidivism across almost all categories. For example, among offenders under age 30 at the time of release, college graduates had a substantially lower rearrest rate (27.0%) than offenders who did not complete high school (74.4%).

Similarly, among offenders age 60 or older at the time of release, college graduates had a somewhat lower rearrest rate (11.6%) than offenders who did not complete high school (17.2%).

Age, Recidivism and Length of Sentence

• Age exerted a strong influence on recidivism across all sentence length categories. Older offenders were less likely to recidivate after release than younger offenders who had served similar sentences, regardless of the length of sentence imposed.

In addition, for younger offenders there was some association between the length of the original federal sentence and the rearrest rates, as younger offenders with sentences of up to six months generally had lower rearrest rates than younger offenders with longer sentences. However, among all offenders sentenced to one year or more of imprisonment, there was no clear association between the length of sentence and the rearrest rate.

Offense Type Correlated to Recidivism

• For certain major offense types, the type of federal offense that offenders had committed also had an effect on recidivism across age groups. For example, firearms offenders had a substantially higher rearrest rate across all age categories than drug trafficking offenders, who in turn had a higher rearrest rate across all age categories than fraud offenders.

For example, for offenders under age 30 at the time of release, the rearrest rates were 79.3 percent (firearms), 62.5 percent (drug trafficking), and 53.6 percent (fraud). Similarly, for offenders age 60 and older at the time of release, the rearrest rates were 30.2 percent (firearms), 17.5 percent (drug trafficking), and 12.5 percent (fraud).

Federal vs. State Comparisons

• At every age group, federal prisoners had a substantially lower recidivism rate than state prisoners who also were released in 2005 and tracked by the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

For example, for offenders age 24 or younger at the time of release, 63.2 percent of federal prisoners were rearrested within five years compared to over four-fifths (84.1%) of state prisoners.

Like federal prisoners, older state prisoners were less likely to recidivate than younger state prisoners.

Impact of Report on a 3582 Motion

Many people have filed motions for reduction of sentence for COVID-19 relief. As we have discussed elsewhere, a person may be eligible for a reduction of sentence under 3582 if they have had extraordinary and compelling circumstances, they are no longer a danger to the community or any other person and the 18 USC § 3553(a) sentencing factors indicate that they are an appropriate candidate for release.

The results of the study are particularly important for individuals seeking 3582 relief. We recommend using this study in order to show a reduced likelihood of recidivism.  This is especially true if the claimant is older and has served a considerable amount of time in prison.

Further, we advise citing to the study and even attaching the report as an exhibit so that the court is more likely to view it. This also can have implications in your sentencing memorandum as well. 

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