Part three of an analysis of “Felony Defendants in Large Urban Counties”
This is the final installment in a three-part series analyzing data of from “Felony Defendants in Large Urban Counties,” described in part one (below plus link). The research from the Bureau of Justice Statistics of the US Department of Justice is one of the most important documents as to studying how the criminal justice system operates.
Juveniles: Juveniles committing crime are in your news broadcast every evening to the point where many consider those under the age of 18 responsible for a very large share of crime. Those under 18 make up 3 percent of all felony arrests and 6 percent of violent felony arrests. The highest percentage (by far) for juvenile arrests is 13 % for robbery.
State Prison Sentences: Convicted people are sent to state prison primarily based on prior convictions. More than one felony conviction means that 54 percent are sent to state institutions for all felony offenses. One felony conviction means that 45 percent go. Prior misdemeanor convictions result in 26 percent going. The highest percentage going to state prisons was 67 percent for the conviction of a violent felony and the defendant had multiple prior felony convictions. Additional offenders go to city and county jails, generally speaking for six months or less.
Females: Females make up 18 percent of felony defendants for all offenses and 13 percent of violent offenses. The highest representation for female defendants was 37 percent for forgery, 38 percent for fraud and 32 percent for theft.
High-Rate Offenders: Those with 10 or more convictions made up 12 percent of all felony arrests, 9 percent of violent felony arrests and topped out at 17 percent of all arrests for burglary. Those having 5 to 9 prior convictions added to those with 10 or more convictions brings us to 28 percent of all felony arrests, 35 percent of all burglaries and 30-35 percent of drug related felony offenses.
Question; what happened to the research stating that a minority of high-rate offenders were responsible for the majority of crime? According to this research, the problem of crime seems inclusive of people with smaller criminal histories (while keeping in mind that most crimes are not reported and most reported crimes do not end in arrest)
Life Sentences: One percent of convicted felons get a life sentence and 3 percent get life sentences for violent felonies. 52 percent of murders get life sentences.
Older felons an increasing problem for the justice system– Crime is no longer a young man’s game
Part two of an analysis of “Felony Defendants in Large Urban Counties”
A significant tenant in criminology is that people commit less crime as they get older. In past years, people from 15 to 25 years of age had the highest number of arrests and those 25 to 39 the second highest. Generally speaking, those 40 years of age and older were in a bracket of steadily decreasing crime that dropped considerably as they got older; they aged out of crime.
A major tenant of incarceration is holding a repeat violent felon or property offender until they move beyond their most crime prone years. In the past, releasing someone at age 40 was considered a smart way to manage a prison population.
There were drops from 1990 to 2006 for felony arrests for those under 25 and the 25 to 39 age groups but those 40 and above increased from 10 percent in 1990 to 26 percent of all felony arrests in 2006.
People 40 and above were responsible for 23 percent of all violent crimes, 31 percent of “other violent crimes,” 33 percent of drug offenses, 31 percent of public order crimes and 39 percent of driving-related offenses. Again, these are all felonies.
People within the criminal justice system have noticed this change for years. There seems to be a class of offenders who have led drug and alcohol saturated lives that simply cannot change their status. They use drugs and engage in property and public order crimes. They are not immune to crimes of violence but understand that they are not the physical threat they were in their 20’s.
It’s also somewhat startling to realize that the average age of all felony arrests was 32 and the average age for violent felony offenders was 31.
Crime is no longer a young man’s game.
Repeat Felons Dominate the Criminal Justice System—Most Convicted Felons do not Serve Time in Prison
Part one of an analysis of “Felony Defendants in Large Urban Counties”
In the nation’s 75 largest counties, an estimated 58,100 defendants were charged with a felony offense in one month–May of 2006. About two-thirds of these felony defendants were charged with a drug or property offense, while 23% had charges for violent offenses, such as murder, rape, robbery, or aggravated assault.
These are some of the findings from the 2006 State Court Processing Statistics data collection program. Since 1988 the Bureau of Justice Statistics of the US Department of Justice has collected data on felony cases processed in state courts in the nation’s 75 largest counties. Federal defendants and defendants charged with misdemeanor crimes are not included.
From this data one can extract conclusions about the inner workings of the justice system. In essence, the system is dominated by people charged with felonies who have significant prior contacts with the courts.
A felony is a serious violent or property crime that has the potential for sending a person to a state prison for one year or more and includes murder, rape, robbery, assault, burglary, larceny, vehicle theft, drug trafficking or weapons offense (our definition).
A misdemeanor is a lesser crime that carries a possible sentence of less than one year in a county or city jail (our definition).
Using a beer bottle to hurt someone is a felony. Threatening someone with a beer bottle in your hand is a misdemeanor.
Please note that the majority of crime in America is not reported and the majority of reported crime does not result in an arrest and in many jurisdictions, a significant minority of crimes are not prosecuted. Thus if you reach the stage where the criminal justice system is prosecuting you for a felony, either you have done something very wrong or the system is tired of seeing you back in court.
77 percent of felony defendants have at least one prior arrest and 69 percent have multiple prior arrests. 61 percent have at least one conviction and 49 percent have multiple convictions.
35 percent of those charged with felonies have 10 or more prior arrests and another 17 percent have between 5 to 9 arrests, thus 52 percent of charged felons have been arrested and before the courts many times.
40 percent of those charged with burglary and motor vehicle theft have 10 or more arrests. 30 percent of violent offenders have 10 or more prior arrests.
40 percent of all felony convictions serve time in a state prison and 55 percent of those convicted for violent felonies serve time in state prisons. More serve less than six months in county jails.
Analysis: The criminal justice system is dominated by individuals with multiple arrests and multiple convictions. As a variety of criminological research indicates, approximately a third of felony defendants are considered high-risk offenders.
Note that this is not an indictment of all people caught up in the criminal justice system; most eventually break free of drugs and crime and go on to lead productive lives, especially as they get older.
But the data does indicate that high-risk offenders exist and need to be incarcerated in state prisons for long periods of time to move them beyond their peak years of criminality.