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Report Finds Wide Variations in Federal Sentencing

The Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse [TRAC], a non-partisan research organization associated with Syracuse University, has released a report on federal criminal sentencing of the last five years. 

The report analyzes over 370,000 criminal cases completed in federal courts during the last five years and compared the records of each judge to the sentencing of other judges on their court. TRAC’s findings suggest that wide variations exist between sentences handed down for similar cases by judges within the same district. The widest variations in sentencing were found in drug cases, and wide variations also exist in white collar crime cases.

TRAC raises questions about the extent to which judges are influenced in their sentencing by factors other than the facts of the case. The report suggests that while judges have discretion in sentencing under the federal sentencing guidelines, a fair court system requires that judges not differ widely in their typical sentence for similar types of cases.   

For more information about the report, visit TRAC’s website.