Release Date: June 23, 2022
Contact:  Michael Rushford
(916) 446-0345

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The United States Sentencing Commission released a study Tuesday confirming its findings from an earlier study that federal criminals who receive longer sentences are less likely to commit new crimes than those who receive shorter sentences.

The California-based Criminal Justice Legal Foundation (CJLF) notes that the study, Length of Incarceration and Recidivism (2022), contradicts claims by progressive district attorneys across the U.S. that longer sentences increase recidivism and shorter sentences and rehabilitation programs reduce recidivism. CJLF’s recent research review, Sentence Length and Recidivism: A Review of the Research, was utilized in the study.

The Sentencing Commission study specifically examined the relationship between length of incarceration and recidivism. It is part of a larger multi-year recidivism study of more than 32,000 federal offenders and also serves as an update to a previously published report on incarceration length and recidivism. The first study examined federal offenders released in 2005, and the newer study replicated the analysis but with a cohort released in 2010. Recidivism was measured by re-arrest within eight years post-release. Results of both studies were almost identical, revealing that lengthier sentences were associated with decreased recidivism rates.

The study found that the odds of re-arrest were lower for offenders sentenced to more than 60 months of incarceration compared with a matched group of offenders who received shorter sentences. For people whose sentences ranged from five to ten years, the odds of re-arrest were 18% lower than comparable offenders who served shorter sentences. For people sentenced to ten years or more, the odds of re-arrest were 29% lower than comparable offenders with shorter sentences.

Over the past decade, several states, including California, Oregon, and New York, have reduced the sentences for most crimes based upon the allegation that longer sentences had no deterrent effect and may actually increase recidivism. A research paper released by the Foundation last summer found that no published study supported that narrative.

“The Sentencing Commission study utilized a large sample over several decades to support its findings, and the methodological framework was strong. The study is also a replication of an earlier study, both of which had nearly identical findings. This is the definition of good science,” said CJLF Research Associate Elizabeth Berger. “State and federal policies that ignore this data, especially regarding repeat offenders, will increase crime and lead to more crime victims.”

The U.S. Sentencing Commission study, Length of Incarceration and Recidivism (2022), is available at:

The CJLF research paper, Sentence Length and Recidivism: A Review of the Research, is available at:

CJLF Research Associate Elizabeth Berger is available for comment at (916) 446-0345