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Pretrial Detention Choices and Federal Sentencing

NCJ Number
Federal Probation Volume: 78 Issue: 1 Dated: June 2014 Pages: 12-18
J.C. Oleson; Marie VanNostrand; Christopher T. Lowenkamp; Timothy P. Cadigan; John Wooldredge
Date Published
June 2014
7 pages
This article describes the effects of pretrial release and detention on sentencing decisions in the U.S. Federal courts.
The U.S. Federal court system processes a significant number of criminal defendants with the majority of them being convicted of their offense and receiving either a non-custodial sentence or being sentenced to prison. In 2011, 14 percent of offenders convicted in Federal courts received non-custodial sentences while the remaining 86 percent were sentenced to Federal prison for an average of 52.9 months. This article describes the effects of pretrial release and detention on the sentencing decisions made by judges in the Federal courts. The article begins with a discussion on the establishment of the Federal pretrial services system, describes the statutes that govern detention decisions made in Federal courts, and describes current trends in Federal detention data. Studies profiled in the article have found that pretrial detention increases the likelihood of imprisonment and increased sentence length, defendants detained before trial are twice as likely as released defendants to fail on post-conviction supervised release, and the cost to the criminal justice system of pretrial detention is significantly greater than releasing defendants before trial. Additional findings from these studies are also discussed in the article. These findings suggest the existence of a negative relationship between pretrial detention and unfavorable sentencing disposition. Implications for corrections officials and policymakers are discussed. References