Impact of Sentencing Guidelines on the Use of Incarceration in Federal Criminal Courts in the United States, 1984-1990 (ICPSR 9845)

Principal Investigator(s): United States Sentencing Commission


The primary purpose of this data collection was to examine the impact of the implementation of sentencing guidelines on the rate of incarcerative and nonincarcerative sentences imposed and on the average length of expected time to be served in incarceration for all offenses as well as for select groups of offenses. The measure of sentence length, "expected time to be served," was used to allow for assumed good time and parole reductions. This term represents the amount of time an offender can expect to spend in prison at the time of sentencing, a roughly equivalent standard that can be measured before and after the implementation of federal criminal sentencing guidelines in 1987. Three broad offense categories were studied: drug offenses, robbery, and economic crimes. Drug offenses include a wide range of illegal activities involving marijuana, heroin, and cocaine. Robbery includes bank and postal robbery (both armed and unarmed) as well as other types of robbery offenses that appear less frequently in the federal system, such as carrying a firearm during the commission of a robbery. Economic offenses include fraud (bank, postal, and other), embezzlement (bank, postal, and other), and tax evasion. Other monthly data are provided on the number of prison and probation sentences for all offenses and by offense categories.

Access Notes

  • One or more data files in this study are set up in a non-standard format, such as card image format. Users may need help converting these files before they can be used for analysis.

  • The public-use data files in this collection are available for access by the general public. Access does not require affiliation with an ICPSR member institution.


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Study Description


U.S. Sentencing Commission. IMPACT OF SENTENCING GUIDELINES ON THE USE OF INCARCERATION IN FEDERAL CRIMINAL COURTS IN THE UNITED STATES, 1984-1990. ICPSR version. Washington, DC: U.S. Sentencing Commission [producer], 1992. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2000.

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This study was funded by:

  • United States Department of Justice. Office of Justice Programs. Bureau of Justice Statistics

Scope of Study

Subject Terms:    courts, drug law offenses, imprisonment, parole, probation, program evaluation, robbery, sentencing, sentencing guidelines, tax evasion

Geographic Coverage:    United States

Time Period:   

  • 1984-07--1990-08

Universe:    All federal criminal cases from 1984 to 1990 contained in the Federal Probation Sentencing and Supervision Information System (FPSSIS) of the Administrative Office of the United States Courts.

Data Type(s):    administrative records data

Data Collection Notes:

(1) The codebook for this collection also documents PROSECUTORIAL DISCRETION AND PLEA BARGAINING IN FEDERAL CRIMINAL COURTS IN THE UNITED STATES, 1983-1990 (ICPSR 9844). (2) The codebook is provided as a Portable Document Format (PDF) file. The PDF file format was developed by Adobe Systems Incorporated and can be accessed using PDF reader software, such as the Adobe Acrobat Reader. Information on how to obtain a copy of the Acrobat Reader is provided through the ICPSR Website on the Internet.


Data Source:

(1) Docket and Reporting System data for fiscal years 1984-1986, and (2) Criminal Masterfile data with Auxiliary Event and and Charge files for fiscal years 1987-1990


Original ICPSR Release:   1993-04-09

Version History:

  • 2000-06-05 SAS and SPSS data definition statements and a PDF version of the codebook have been added to this collection.

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