About half of felony defendants from large urban counties are convicted and sentenced to prison each year, reports a new survey from the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics. Using data from 2004, the latest available, BJS said yesterday that of the roughly 57,000 defendants from the nation’s 75 most populous counties, a little over 20 percent ended up in prison and another 30 percent went to jail. About two-thirds of defendants were charged with a drug or property offense. The drug-case proportion of the total has held steady since 1994.
As is typical, nearly all convictions were the result of a guilty plea. The median prison sentence for violent felony convictions was four years. One figure that went up since the previous year surveyed was the percent of defendantrs with an “active criminal justice status, including probation, parole and release pending dispotion of a cae. That figure was 39% in 2004, up from 32% in 2002. Seventy-eight percent of defendants had been arrested previously, with 53 percent having at least five previous arrests. Nearly 60 percent of defendants were released pending adjudication, and one third of the released defendants committed pretrial misconduct, BJS said.