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US Bureau of Justice Statistics
Added August, 2003

Criminal Sentencing Statistics

Summary findings

  • In 2000, State and Federal courts convicted a combined total of nearly 984,000 adults of felonies -- State courts convicted an estimated 924,700 adults and Federal courts convicted 59,123 adults (accounting for 6% of the national total.)
  • In 2000, 68% of all felons convicted in State courts were sentenced to a period of confinement - 40% to State prisons and 28% to local jails. Jail sentences are for short-term confinement (usually for a year or less) in a county or city facility, while prison sentences are for long-term confinement (usually for over a year) in a State facility.
  • State courts sentenced 32% of convicted felons to straight probation with no jail or prison time to serve.
  • Felons sentenced to a State prison in 2000 had an average sentence of 4 1/2 years but were likely to serve 55% of that sentence - or just 2 1/2 years - before release, assuming that 2000 release policies continue in effect.
  • The average sentence to local jail was just over 6 months. The average probation sentence was about 3 years.
  • Besides being sentenced to incarceration or probation, 39% or more of convicted felons also were ordered to pay a fine, pay victim restitution, receive treatment, perform community service, or comply with some other additional penalty. A fine was imposed on at least 25% of convicted felons.
Lengths of felony sentences imposed by State courts, 2000
Average maximum sentence length
(in months) for felons sentenced to:

Most serious
conviction offense
Total Prison Jail Probation

All offenses 36 mo 55 mo 6 mo 38 mo
Violent offenses 66 mo 91 mo 7 mo 44 mo
Property offenses 27 mo 42 mo 6 mo 38 mo
Drug offenses 30 mo 47 mo 6 mo 36 mo
Weapons offenses 25 mo 38 mo 7 mo 36 mo
Other offenses 22 mo 38 mo 6 mo 40 mo
Note: Means exclude sentences to death or to life in prison. Sentence length data were available for 852,616 incarceration and probation sentences.

This document is not necessarily endorsed by the Almanac of Policy Issues. It is being preserved  in the Policy Archive for historic reasons.

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