Felons convicted of illegally possessing firearms are having a tougher than expected time remaining free after being released from federal prison, a Kansas City Star study found. The defendants were swept up in Project Ceasefire, an anti-crime initiative that has convicted more than 1,000 people on felon-in-possession or similar charges since late 1999. A review of 118 defendants charged in Ceasefire's first year found that almost two-thirds of those who finished their sentences returned to prison because they used alcohol or illegal drugs or failed to follow other terms of probation.
The recidivism numbers are substantially higher than those posted by federal offenders in general. Even the worst criminal defendants in the federal justice system are more likely to finish probation successfully than Project Ceasefire defendants. Kevin Lyon, chief federal probation officer for western Missouri, said that felon-in-possession offenders are his most difficult population to supervise. Each offender has had prior experience in the criminal justice system, and many lack the tools that contribute to successful probation, such as good education, a stable home life, sobriety, and a dependable work history. “That spells disaster for supervision,” Lyon said. “There's no stability at all.” Project Ceasefire has focused on an easily identifiable set of crime-prone defendants who could not legally possess firearms.