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 of sentence served

Incarcerated murderers:  percent served Incarcerated rapists:  percent served
Incarcerated robbers:  percent served Incarcerated assaulters:  percent served
Incarcerated burglars:  percent served Incarcerated vehicle theives:  percent served

To the chart data

Notes on figures 61-66: National data on released offenders show what percentage of their total sentence they had served before being released. These data form the primary basis for the "Percent of sentence served" in the graphics. "Percent of sentence served" is the percentage served among offenders (juvenile and adult) released from incarceration in the year. Incarceration is defined in Notes on figures 31-36. "Percent of sentence served" was obtained by dividing "time served" by "sentence imposed." Fragmentary data on "percent of sentence served" had to be assembled to form national estimates of "percent of sentence served" in the United States. National data on sentence length and time served were specially calculated in England for years in which crime victim surveys were conducted. For the sake of consistency, "percent of sentence served" in the United States is shown for years covered in previous graphics. In both countries, "percent of sentence served" for murder included life sentences. Crime definitions for the graphics are given in Notes on figures 5-10.

Is the fraction of the sentence served in confinement before release about the same in the two countries?

  • The fraction of the sentence that is served before release is generally about the same in the United States and England (including Wales).

    According to latest figures (1994 in the United States, 1995 in England), on average, the fraction of the sentence that was served before incarcerated offenders were released was --

    • about the same in the United States (48%) and England (43%) for murder (figure 61)
    • about the same in the United States (55%) and England (57%) for rape (figure 62)
    • about the same in the United States (48%) and England (51%) for robbery (figure 63)
    • about the same in the United States (49%) and England (45%) for assault (figure 64)
    • about the same in the United States (42%) and England (44%) for burglary (figure 65)
    • slightly higher in the United States (47%) than in England (40%) for motor vehicle theft (figure 66).

    Is the fraction of the sentence served before release rising in both countries?

  • Since 1981 in England, the fraction served has generally stayed constant or fallen. In the United States, the fraction served generally dropped through around the mid-1980's and has risen since then.

  • Since 1981, the sentence fraction served has stayed fairly constant for English murderers (45% in 1981 and 43% in 1995), while the U.S. fraction has risen fairly consistently (37% in 1981 rising to 48% in 1994) (figure 61).

  • Since 1981, the fraction of the sentence served has stayed at around 50% for English rapists, while the U.S. fraction fell to 43% in 1986 and has generally risen since then, reaching 55% in 1994 (figure 62).

  • Since 1981, the fraction of the sentence served has stayed at around 49% for English robbers, while the U.S. fraction fell to 44% in 1986 and has generally risen since then, reaching 48% in 1994 (figure 63).

  • Since 1981, the fraction of the sentence served by assaulters has generally fallen in England (56% in 1981 falling to 45% in 1995), while the U.S. fraction fell to 46% in 1986 and has generally risen since then, reaching 49% in 1994 (figure 64).

  • Since 1981, the fraction of the sentence served by burglars has generally fallen in England (58% in 1981 falling to 44% in 1995) and the United States (47% in 1981 falling to 42% in 1994) (figure 65).

  • Since 1981, the fraction of the sentence served by motor vehicle thieves has generally fallen in England (60% in 1981 falling to 40% in 1995), while the fraction served in the United States generally fell through the late 1980's (46% in 1981 falling to 42% in 1988) and has generally risen since then (47% in 1994) (figure 66).

    Chart data - in spreadsheets
    Figure 61 Figure 62 Figure 63
    Murder Rape Robbery

    Year
    United
    States

    England
    United
    States

    England
    United
    States

    England
    1981 36.9 44.5 48.1 50.6 50.1 49.1
    1982
    1983 42.4 42.5 51.0 49.3 51.8 46.5
    1984
    1985
    1986 45.4 42.7 44.1
    1987 45.5 52.3 48.7
    1988 44.5 44.3 45.4
    1989
    1990 46.0 49.1 48.4
    1991 44.0 50.9 49.9
    1992 48.4 56.1 48.0
    1993 46.1 50.9 47.1
    1994 47.6 54.9 48.2
    1995 43.4 57.4 50.9
    Figure 64 Figure 65 Figure 66
    Assault Burglary Motor vehicle theft


    Year
    United
    States

    England
    United
    States

    England
    United
    States

    England
    1981 50.1 55.6 46.7 57.8 46.1 60.0
    1982
    1983 50.9 52.0 45.7 51.3 53.4 56.6
    1984
    1985
    1986 45.5 44.5 50.3
    1987 45.6 43.7 44.0
    1988 45.7 39.4 41.7
    1989
    1990 48.2 40.8 43.0
    1991 46.1 45.9 42.4
    1992 48.5 43.0 47.9
    1993 45.9 46.5 43.1
    1994 49.3 41.7 47.4
    1995 44.5 43.6 39.5


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