BJS: Bureau of Justice Statistics

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Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS)
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Crime and Justice in the United States
and in England and Wales, 1981-96

Percent sentenced to incarceration

Percent of convictions Rapist:  Percent of conviction
Robbers:  Percent of conviction Assaulters:  Percent of conviction
Burglars:  Percent of conviction Motor vehicle thefts:  Percent of conviction

To the chart data

Notes on figures 31-36: Data compiled by courts nationwide (courts are identified in Notes on figures 19-24) formed the basis for estimates of the percentage of convicted offenders sentenced to incarceration. In the United States, place of incarceration includes State prisons and local jails for adults convicted in State courts; Federal prisons for persons convicted in Federal courts; residential institutions (for example, juvenile training schools) for juveniles convicted in juvenile courts. In England, place of confinement includes prisons, young offender institutions, and secure accommodation for juveniles. Juveniles in England are incarcerated in two types of facilities: those that are exclusively for juveniles (secure accommodation for juveniles), and those for persons under age 21 (young offender institutions). More details on the conviction data for the graphics is given in Notes on figures 19-24. Crime definitions are given in Notes on figures 5-10.

In the United States, various types of institutions are used to incarcerate persons convicted of crime. There are State prisons and local jails for adults convicted in State courts; Federal prisons for persons convicted in Federal courts; and various types of residential institutions (for example, training schools) for juveniles found delinquent in juvenile courts.

In England (including Wales), adults are incarcerated in either prisons (for persons ages 21 and over) or young offender institutions (for persons ages 15-20). Juveniles in England are incarcerated in two types of facilities: those that are exclusively for juveniles (secure accommodation for juveniles), and those for persons under age 21 (young offender institutions). Unlike the United States, where juveniles and adults are kept in separate institutions, English young offender institutions confine juveniles and adults together.

This report focuses only on incarceration, but there are many other sentences that offenders receive in both countries, such as probation, community service, and fines.

Are courts in the two countries equally likely to sentence a convicted offender to incarceration?

  • Courts in the United States are more likely to sentence an offender to incarceration than courts in England. Two exceptions are offenders convicted of murder or rape.

According to the latest court figures (1994 in the United States, 1995 in England) --

  • 96% of convicted U.S. murderers and a nearly identical percentage of English murderers (94%) were sentenced to incarceration (figure 31)
  • 82% of convicted U.S. rapists were sentenced to incarceration, which is less than the 95% of English rapists (figure 32)
  • 79% of convicted U.S. robbers and 67% of English robbers were sentenced to incarceration (figure 33)
  • 62% of convicted U.S. assaulters and 27% of English assaulters were sentenced to incarceration (figure 34)
  • 60% convicted U.S. burglars and 38% of English burglars were sentenced to incarceration (figure 35)
  • 55% of convicted U.S. motor vehicle thieves and 30% of English motor vehicle thieves were sentenced to incarceration (figure 36).

Are courts in both countries sentencing relatively more convicted offenders to incarceration today than in the past?

  • In the United States, the percentage of convicted offenders receiving an incarceration sentence has been fairly stable since 1981. In England, the percentage has been less stable but has shown no long-term trend. However, since 1991 the percentage receiving an incarceration sentence has been rising in England for murder, assault, burglary, and motor vehicle theft.

    From 1981 to the latest year of sentencing data (1994 in the United States, 1995 in England), the percentage of convicted offenders receiving an incarceration sentence has been --

    • staying at about 95% for U.S. murder while increasing to 94% for English murders (up from 85% in 1981 and up from 89% in 1991) (figure 31)
    • staying at about 82% for U.S. rape and staying at about 95% for English rape (figure 32)
    • staying at about 80% for U.S. robbery while falling somewhat to 67% for English robbery (down from 74% in 1981 and 79% in 1987) (figure 33)
    • staying at about 60% for U.S. assault while rising to 27% for English assault (up from 13% in 1981 and up from 15% in 1991) (figure 34)
    • rising slightly to 60% for U.S. burglary (up from 54% in 1981) and rising to 38% for English burglary (up from 29% in 1981 and up from 28% in 1991) (figure 35)
    • staying at about 50% for U.S. motor vehicle theft and rising to 30% for English vehicle theft (up from 25% in 1981 and up from 14% in 1991) (figure 36).

    Chart data - in spreadsheets
    Figure 31 Figure 32 Figure 33
    Murder Rape Robbery

    Year
    United
    States

    England
    United
    States

    England
    United
    States

    England
    1981 94.0 84.5 82.2 90.0 78.3 73.5
    1982
    1983 94.3 86.9 82.2 94.9 79.5 77.2
    1984
    1985
    1986 93.7 82.5 77.3
    1987 92.6 96.0 79.1
    1988 93.7 82.4 80.2
    1989
    1990 93.7 81.8 81.5
    1991 88.8 95.2 69.8
    1992 96.0 81.8 80.9
    1993 92.7 94.2 69.7
    1994 95.8 82.4 78.6
    1995 94.3 94.5 66.8
    Figure 34 Figure 35 Figure 36
    Assault Burglary Motor vehicle theft


    Year
    United
    States

    England
    United
    States

    England
    United
    States

    England
    1981 61.6 13.1 53.7 29.0 50.1 24.9
    1982
    1983 62.3 14.8 55.8 33.2 51.6 23.9
    1984
    1985
    1986 59.8 57.9 49.0
    1987 19 34.8 20.4
    1988 61.3 60.2 48.5
    1989
    1990 61.1 59.2 51.6
    1991 15.3 28.0 14.1
    1992 60.1 60.2 54.4
    1993 17.8 29.5 22.9
    1994 62.1 59.5 54.9
    1995 27.0 38.2 29.6
     


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