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Sentencing Commission Releases Study on Youthful Offenders

The United States Sentencing Commission has released a study titled “Youthful Offenders in the Federal System.”  Youthful offenders are defined as offenders age 25 or younger at the time they are sentenced.  The age of 25 was chosen because medical and psychiatric research shows that the average person’s brain is not fully developed until he or she reaches the age of 25.  Thus, a person who commits an offense before the age of 25 may not have had a fully developed brain, which is a potential factor in mitigation.

The Commission learned that youthful offenders comprised 18% of all federal offenders who were sentenced between 2010 and 2015.  In the Eastern District of Kentucky, an average of about 68 youthful offenders are sentenced per year.  The Commission’s research shows that the majority (nearly 58%) of all youthful offenders are Hispanic, and 92% of their offenses are non-violent.  About 86% of them are male.  The most common offenses are drug trafficking offenses; and among those, the most common drug is marijuana.  The second most common offenses committed by youthful offenders are immigration offenses, with illegal reentry being the most prevalent.

Regardless of the offense type, youthful offenders are more likely to be sentenced within the Guidelines range than older offenders.  Alarmingly, the Commission’s study revealed that youthful offenders are more likely to recidivate than other offenders.  They recidivate at a rate of about 67%, compared to an average among older offenders of around 41%.   The full text of the Commission’s report can be found here: http://www.ussc.gov/sites/default/files/pdf/research-and-publications/research-publications/2017/20170525_youthful-offenders.pdf.

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