OK, so perhaps readers won't be scurrying to search for their name like Martin in "The Jerk," eager to see it in print because it means "I'm somebody now," but Doc Berman brings word that the FY 2006 federal sentencing data are now online, and for data geeks it provides some interesting annual fodder:
2007 Annual Report and Sourcebook: The 2007 Annual Report presents an overview of major Commission activities and accomplishments for fiscal year 2006. See the Commission's 2007 Sourcebook of Federal Sentencing Statistics for descriptive figures, tables, and charts, and selected district, circuit, and national sentencing data.You've heard the term, "Don't make a federal case out of it"? Well, 72,865 times in 2006, somebody did (that's the total number of federal sentences issued nationwide), and a surprisingly large number of those cases, 18.4% of the national total, came from Texas: (Click on links for fact sheets for each district)
Eastern District: 979 convictions, 1.3% of national totalClearly the numbers in Texas' Southern and Western Districts are driven by immigration cases, but the volume is stunning. Both districts alone processed more cases last year than most entire federal circuits - indeed both districts alone processed more cases than every other Circuit except the Ninth! (Texas is in the 5th Circuit, which is based in New Orleans and includes Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi.)
Northern District: 1,052, 1.4%
Southern District: 5,582, 7.7%
Western District: 5,779, 7.9%
Total: 13,392 convictions, 18.4% of national total
Nationally, immigration accounted for 24.3% of federal cases (though more in TX), and drugs accounted for 34.4%, followed by firearms charges at a distant third 11.6%.
Most federal cases never get to trial, but are plea bargained away. One observes wide disparities in the rate of plea bargains in cases among Texas districts, which could be partially but not entirely explained by immigration cases. Here are the portion of federal cases in each district that went to trial last year:
TexasThat's a microscopic percentage of cases going to trial, isn't it? If in your mind's eye you believe the job of a lawyer or judge is to "try cases," these statistics should dissuade you of that misconception: The modern justice system's function is to plea cases, not try them.
Eastern 2.8% (27 cases)
Northern 4.8% (51 cases)
Southern 1.9% (106 cases)
Western 1.8% (105 cases)
Considering the high rate of plea bargains, the government exerts a great deal of control over sentencing. So when you hear complaints that federal prisons are running out of room or that we need more prisons for immigration detention, remember a surprising amount of new incarceration being generated through federal cases, particularly in immigration cases, appears to be volitional - i.e., something that's under control of the judges within the bounds of current law. According to a table titled, "Imprisonment rates for offenders eligible for non-prison sentences," in 2007 90% of immigration cases that could have received a non-prison sentence instead resulted in prison sentences, more than twice the rate of any other category.
There are lots of interesting data here for those concerned with the federal courts - these tidbits are just a teaser.
See similar (but not as comprehensive) data on Texas state courts here.