The rate at which federal offenders are being sentenced to prison has increased by 10 percentage points in the past 10 years — from 75.4 percent to 85.3 percent since fiscal year 1997 — while the use of alternative sentences, such as probation and probation with confinement, has decreased over the same period, says a new U.S. Sentencing Commission report cited by the National Law Journal.
In 1984, more than 30 percent of offenders were sentenced to probation without any confinement, said attorney Margaret Love in Washington, D.C. A new commission report says 7.1 percent of federal offenders received probation only in 2007 — a huge decline. “Somebody is not getting the message,” said Love. “The states are far ahead of the federal government. They have to live with the budgetary impact and the impact on the community. They really want to keep people out of prison.” The decline in the use of alternative sentences, says the commission, is largely due to noncitizen offenders who must be confined while awaiting deportation. Prison sentences accounted for 81.1 percent of sentences imposed on ctizens in fiscal year 2007.