Sentencing and Corrections - Sentencing And Time Served

prison offenses laws convicted

In 2000 state and federal courts convicted some 984,000 adults of felonies, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS). Of those, 924,700 were adults convicted in state courts and 59,123 were convicted in federal jurisdictions. Some 68 percent of convicted felons were sentenced to a period of incarceration in 2000. Of those, 40 percent went to state prisons and 28 percent to local jails. Those in jails were usually confined for less than one year.

In 2000 the average felony sentence imposed by state courts was 36 months in prison. On average, violent offenders served the most time (66 months), compared to averages of 27 months for property offenses, 30 months for drug offenses, and 25 months for weapons offenses. (See Table 6.1.)

The length of a prison sentence was almost always longer than the time actually served by a convicted felon in 2000. In state prisons, the actual time served was about 55 percent of the overall sentence. Most states (but not the federal system) have parole boards that determine when a prisoner will be paroled (released from prison). In the federal system and in most states, prisoners can earn time credits for good behavior ("good time") to shorten their time in prison.

"Three Strikes" Laws

As of 2004, 26 states and the federal government had "Three Strikes" laws, which require repeat criminals to serve enhanced prison terms if they are convicted of three violent felonies. Most of these laws were enacted during the 1990s in response to a significant rise in crime, particularly violent crime, during the first half of the decade. The consequence of these laws was a rise in the prison population, along with its attendant costs.

Opponents of Three Strikes laws argue that the laws demand even more prisons to house prisoners for longer

Length 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.
SOURCE: "Lengths of Felony Sentences Imposed by State Courts, 2000," in "Criminal Sentencing Statistics," U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Washington, DC, December 10, 2003 [Online] [accessed March 8, 2004]

periods. Also, reducing the possibility of parole results in more and more elderly prisoners, who are statistically much less likely to commit crimes than younger prisoners, and who have increasing health-care needs. By the year 2000 many states that had passed Three Strikes laws were wondering how to pay for more prisons and longer incarcerations.

Since 2000 several states have loosened their mandatory minimum sentencing laws or taken other measures to reduce their prison populations. For example, in 2001 Mississippi adopted an early-release provision for nonviolent offenders, and states such as California, Texas, North Carolina, Connecticut, Idaho, and Arkansas have passed legislation mandating the diversion of nonviolent drug offenders to community-based treatment programs.

On April 1, 2002, the United States Supreme Court agreed to consider whether California's Three Strikes law, FIGURE 6.1
Capital punishment: Persons executed, 1930–2002
considered to be one of the toughest in the country, violates the Eighth Amendment's ban against cruel and unusual punishment. Over half (57 percent) of California prisoners sentenced under the Three Strikes law were convicted of nonviolent third-strike felonies, including drug possession and petty theft, and are serving mandatory sentences of 25 years to life without the possibility of parole. In March 2003 the Supreme Court, in a five–four decision, upheld the right of states to impose lengthy sentences on repeat felony offenders, regardless of the relative seriousness of the "third-strike" felony.

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over 4 years ago

My son was out on bail on a felony probation for stealing a four wheeler breaking into three cars and stealing a car, the lawyer got 3 of them thrower out and only had to be charged on two of them well he got out on felony probation, well it's been 7 months since he got out, then last week he went to a friends house to ride four wheelers well boom police show up in it turns out that his friend had stolen four wheelers so he got arrested with them, and that voilated his probation so now he,s in there on all his old charges and two new felonies so that's a total of 7 felonies, my question is, in the state of Mississippi what kind of sentences do you believe he will get? Do I need a lawyer? Are will a sate appointed one be good enough? I honestly need real advice please, what is the most likely outcome for him thank you

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over 3 years ago

if someone gets a 25 yr sentence in potter county texas for stealing a vehicle & fraud, how long will they serve? thanks.s beck

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about 3 years ago

Please just can you tell me is it the law that Prison time is supose to over ride county time if the county time you are serving are misdaminors?

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over 3 years ago

My son has a strike so then hes out and steals a walet and glasses at koels and gets 32mos and has to do 85% of his time! why? isn't that for three strikers?

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about 4 years ago

my friend was convicted at the early age of 16years old. i think he was a victim of racist because he was black and he resided in chicago, il. he went to mississippi to visit his family for 2 months and he was railroaded on some bogus claim. he was sentenced to 28 years and he's been locked up since then i've never seen him again. i spoke to hom several times and he told me he was set up by some people down in mississippi and now he's serving 28 years for some thing he didnt do. he's 30 years old now. i just want to know how long he has to do?

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almost 3 years ago

My husband was sentenced 16 months in SP time, for drinking and driving 3rd DUI. However, i am pregnant and he was my only source of income is there any program he qualifies for?

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almost 3 years ago

my husband was conviced 1981 and was given 2 life sent. however he receive good time crt and has never met with the parole board and at the time of his sent. a life sent. was 30yrs which he has served one of them what i want to know how much time do he have to serve on the second sent. he has 12yrs of good time crt, he work and he never get any write up. today in tennessee a life sent is 25 yrs. what can we do?

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over 3 years ago

What would the possible sentencing be for the following charges?



I have a brother-in-law who was recently arrested on these charges but we are curious to see what kind of incarceration time he is facing.

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almost 4 years ago

i been on my comupter to find answers but i dont find them it said all 44 states passed good time early releases except for idaho inmates not get good time credits but im still confused is there any good time bill for idaho inmates becase my love ones in idaho isci firt time prison and they gaven him 4 years with 216 earned cedit from th county jail