In March 2017, the United States Sentencing Commission published a report titled, The Past Predicts the Future: Criminal History and Recidivism of Federal Offenders.  The report’s findings were based on a study of over 25,000 federal offenders who were released from prison or placed on probation in 2005.  The study was designed to analyze the recidivism rates of these offenders.  For purposes of the study, “recidivism” was defined as “a person’s relapse into criminal behavior, often after the person receives sanctions or undergoes intervention for a previous crime.”  Generally, recidivism was measured by rearrest, reconviction, and/or reincarceration.

The key findings of the Commission’s study include:

  • A defendant’s criminal history score and criminal history category (both calculated under the Sentencing Guidelines) are strong predictors of recidivism. Generally, the higher the score, the more likely an offender is to recidivate.
  • There are differences in rearrest rates for offenders with different criminal history point scores within each criminal history category, but the largest differences are for offenders in Criminal History Category I, which includes offenders with a criminal history score of zero or one point.
  • Offenders with no criminal history points and no prior contact with the criminal just system have more than an 11% lower recidivism rate than offenders with no criminal history points and some prior contact with the criminal justice system, such as arrests or convictions that do not receive points.
  • Offenders with no criminal history points have a lower rearrest rate than offenders with one criminal history point, and less serious rearrest offenses.
  • Offenders who have only one prior criminal history point have a significantly lower recidivism rate than offenders who have prior convictions assigned two or three points.

The Commission concluded – consistent with previous studies – that a federal offender’s criminal history category is a strong predictor of recidivism.  A full text of the report is available here:  http://www.ussc.gov/sites/default/files/pdf/research-and-publications/research-publications/2017/20170309_Recidivism-CH.pdf.

What the Commission’s report means, practically speaking, is that when a convicted defendant has a high criminal history category, defense counsel must thoroughly explain to the court at a sentencing hearing why the particular defendant is an outlier who is not likely to recidivate.  This type of advocacy is necessary to obtain the lowest sentence possible for the client.  The criminal defense attorneys at Adams, Stepner, Woltermann & Dusing are particularly skilled at sentencing advocacy and have a track record of obtaining positive results in a variety of difficult sentencing scenarios.