Over 65% of Federal Prisoners are Black or Hispanic: USSC

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Photo courtesy U.S. Department of Justice

The majority of individuals held in federal prisons are Black or Hispanic, according to the U.S. Sentencing Commission (USSC).

Nearly half of the federal offenders were incarcerated for drug trafficking offenses—the majority for cases related to methamphetamine, the USSC reported Wednesday.

Offering a snapshot of the current state of the drug war, the data showed that there were 151,729 federal incarcerees as of March 2021, of whom over 65,000 were imprisoned for drug trafficking.

Some 46 percent of the drug offenders were behind bars following conviction for meth offenses, followed by 20 percent for powder cocaine, and 12.6 percent for crack cocaine.

Some 34.9 percent of the incarcerees held by the U.S. Bureau of Prisons (BOP) are Black; and 31.6 percent are Hispanic.

Another 19,473 individuals convicted of violating federal firearms regulations represented the next largest segment of federal prisoners.

The average age of federal prisoners as of March, 2021 was 41 years.

In related data, the USSC reported that 25.2 percent of cases involving federal offenses were subject to mandatory minimum penalties—the majority of which again were for drug-related offenses. For those subject to mandatory minimums, the average sentence length was 138 months.

But the report also noted that nearly half of the individuals subject to mandatory minimums (44 percent) received relief –some because they assisted the prosecution or law enforcement, and others because they were eligible for relief under the so-called “safety-valve” provision.

More than 70 percent of female offenders subject to mandatory minimums received relief, compared to 39.6 percent of male offenders.

As attention has grown on computer crimes, the USSC reported that 652 individuals were held in federal facilities for “identity theft” cases.

In addition, 3,705 federal offenders were granted a sentence reduction under the First Step Act, with an average decrease of six years, through Sept. 30, 2020—the latest period for which data are available.

The original average sentence was 274 months.

For “Quick Fact” summaries of data on federal offenders under the custody of BOP click here. Summaries of mandatory minimum statistics are available here. A full report can be downloaded here.

Data and tables on sentence reductions can be downloaded here.

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