As the crime rate declines in the U.S., the criminal justice system is getting more efficient. The estimated annual number of felony convictions climbed steadily from 872,220 in 1994 to 1,051,000 in 2002, says a new U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics report. During the same period, the likelihood of a felony arrest’s leading to a felony conviction increased in five different categories: murder, 65 to 70 percent; robbery, 39 to 47 percent; aggravated assault, 14 to 23 percent; burglary, 39 to 50 percent, and drug trafficking, 52 to 80 percent. The data were published in “Felony Sentences in State Courts, 2002,” based on a sample from 300 counties.
Among other changes recorded by the survey: the average age of a convicted felon is increasing slightly; 52 percent of those convicted in 2002 were 30 or older, compared with 47 percent eight years earlier. Also, the percentage of convicted felons sent to prison dropped from 45 to 41 in the eight-year span; BJS says the difference is not statistically significant.