New Report About Federal Youthful Offenders From U.S. Sentencing Commission

The U.S. Sentencing Commission, which is responsible for advisory federal sentencing guidelines, has issued a new report on federal youthful offenders.

The report has some interesting factoids about federal youthful offenders, such as:

  • There were 86,309 offenders (18.0% of the federal offender population) age 25 or younger sentenced in the federal system between 2010 and 2015.
  • The majority (57.8%) of youthful offenders are Hispanic.
  • There were very few youthful offenders under the age of 18 sentenced in the federal system (52 between 2010 and 2015).
  • Almost 92 percent of offenses committed by youthful offenders were nonviolent offenses.
  • Similar to the overall federal offender population (or non-youthful offenders group) the most common offenses that youthful offenders committed were drug trafficking (30.9%), immigration (28.6%), and firearms offenses (13.7%).
  • The average sentence for youthful offenders was 34.9 months.
  • Youthful offenders were more likely to be sentenced within the guidelines range than non-youthful offenders (56.1% compared to 50.1%).
  • Youthful offenders recidivated at a much higher rate than their older counterparts—about 67 percent versus 41 percent.

The report considers federal offenders 25 and under "youthful." According to the report, "[t]raditionally, youthful offenders often have been defined as those under the age of 18, but for purposes of this study, the Commission has defined youthful offenders as federal offenders 25 years old or younger at the time of sentencing. The inclusion of young adults in the definition of youthful offenders is informed by recent case law and neuroscience research in which there is a growing recognition that people may not gain full reasoning skills and abilities until they reach age 25 on average."

The report concludes the between 2010 and 2015:

There were 86,309 youthful offenders sentenced during this time frame, representing 18 percent of all federal offenders sentenced during that time. More than three quarters (86.0%) of youthful offenders are male, more than half (54.5%) are U.S. citizens, and more than half (57.8%) are Hispanic. Less than three percent of youthful offenders sentenced during this time frame were Native American or Alaskan Natives. Only 52 of all youthful offenders sentenced between 2010 and 2015 were juveniles at the time of sentencing.

Youthful offenders had a very similar pattern of offense types as older offenders. The most common offense type among youthful offenders was drug trafficking, followed by immigration, firearms, fraud offenses, and simple possession offenses. The most common drug among drug offenses for youthful offenders was marijuana.

About 57 percent of the youthful offenders in this study were classified as CHC I offenders. In fact, 43.1 percent of all youthful offenders in this study received no criminal history points or had no countable criminal history. About 13 percent were classified as CHC II offenders, 16 percent as CHC III offenders, and the remainder were classified as CHC IV or above. United States Sentencing Commission.

For all youthful offenders in this study, the average sentence was 34.9 months. In only a few cases (5.3%) was an alternative sentence imposed on youthful offenders in the study group. The median sentence for youthful offenders where a mandatory minimum sentence applied was 60 months. More than half (56.1%) of youthful offenders during this time frame were sentenced within the guideline range, and one quarter were sentenced below the range with government sponsorship.

The complete federal youthful offenders report is accessible here: 2017 U.S. Sentencing Commission Federal Youthful Offenders Report.

About Brandon Sample

Brandon Sample is an attorney, author, and criminal justice reform activist.Brandon’s law practice is focused on federal criminal defense, federal appeals, federal post-conviction relief, federal civil rights litigation, federal administrative law, and the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

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