The Impact of Rule 35(b) and Other Sentencing Adjustments on Time Served in Prison by Federal Offenders

William P. Adams, The Urban Institute
Mark Motivans, Bureau of Justice Statistics

Pursuant to the Federal sentencing guidelines, the government may file a motion at sentencing to reduce an offender's sentence in exchange for "substantial assistance" provided to the government. Rule 35(b) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure also allows for reductions in sentences for substantial assistance provided to Federal prosecutors within one year of imposition of the sentence, after the offender has entered prison. Sentences imposed by the court may be changed for other reasons, such as court orders modifying or correcting sentences, executive clemency, a Bureau of Prisons motion, or supervised release violations. This paper examines the prevalence of post-sentencing adjustments from 1988-2001. We analyze the type of offense, judicial district, and personal characteristics (such as race, ethnicity, and gender) of the offenders who receive sentencing adjustments by the type of adjustment received and the impact it has on the time to be served for these offenders. We use a specially created analysis file which makes use of information in annual extracts of the Federal Bureau of Prisons' SENTRY database covering all admissions and releases from Federal prison between 1986 and 2001.

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Updated 05/20/2006