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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:

Incarceration  
 
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.

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