The purpose of the study was to examine how court decisions and sentencing policy changes have affected sentencing behavior in federal drug trafficking cases. Changes at the district level and in mandatory minimum sentencing were a particular focus.
Data were obtained from the Defendants Sentenced Under the Sentencing Reform Act data from the United States Sentencing Commission from fiscal years 1992-2009, which contained all offenders in federal court in those fiscal years. These data were then merged with federal district-level indicators for the 89 federal districts from the Federal Court Management Statistics website, state level demographic data from the United States Census Bureau, Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) data collected by the Federal Bureau, and the Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS) maintained by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Drug trafficking cases were identified by using the sentencing guideline offense, which resulted in a final sample of N=376,637 cases.
The initial sample included 1,042,207 cases. Drug trafficking cases were identified by using the sentencing guideline offense, which resulted in a sample of N=376,637 cases. The sample does not include cases from 1992 and cases from United States territories.
Longitudinal: Trend / Repeated Cross-section
All offenders sentenced in federal court between 1992 and 2009.
Federal Judicial District
Sources of these data include:
- United States Sentencing Commission data from fiscal years 1992 through 1998 and 1999 through 2009;
- Judicial district data from Federal Court Management Statistics; and
- State demographic data from United States Census Bureau, Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) data collected by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS) maintained by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
Variables (Merged USSC data, n=1,042,207, 78 variables) include information on individual offenders, such as demographics, offense, case characteristics, and sentence. District level variables include population density, percentage of population by race (White, Black, Asian, and American Indian or Native Hawaiian), total number of trafficking sentences by drug type (cocaine, crack, heroin, marijuana, methamphetamine, and other), and mean sentence prison length.