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Federal Judicial Center Celebrates 50 Years: Improving Criminal Justice Administration and Sentencing in the Federal Courts

From its inception, the Center has undertaken research and related activities aimed at improving both criminal justice administration and sentencing in the federal courts. Below are links examples of some of the Center’s major research reports and activities:



Planning and Conducting Sentencing Institutes

Under 28 U.S.C. § 334, along with the Criminal Law Committee or its predecessor committees, and the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Center research staff planned and conducted multiple yearly multicircuit sentencing institutes for district judges, probation officers, federal prosecutors, and defenders beginning in 1968 and continuing to 1984. Beginning in 1990, at the direction of the Criminal Law Committee and in cooperation with the United States Sentencing Commission, the Probation and Pretrial Services Office of the AO, and the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Center staff planned and conducted National Sentencing Policy Institutes for district judges, probation officers, federal prosecutors, and defenders.

(Sample Agenda from Sentencing Institute)


The Second Circuit Sentencing Study: A Report to the Judges of the Second Circuit

This is a report on a sentencing experiment that revealed substantial disparity in determining both the need for incarceration and the lengths of prison terms to be imposed. Matters of disparity and the effects of particular case characteristics are discussed.
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Support to Planning Groups as Required by the Speedy Trial Act of 1974


The Sentencing Options of Federal District Judges – Quarterly Distribution of Empirical Sentencing Data

This report describes the statutory sentencing alternatives in the federal courts. Addressed primarily to newly appointed district judges, the report relates sentencing alternatives to the policies of the agencies that carry out the sentences, particularly the Bureau of Prisons and the Parole Commission.
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Legislative History of Title I of the Speedy Trial Act of 1974

A research aid for those engaged in interpreting the Speedy Trial Act, this includes excerpts from congressional hearing records and committee reports, which are reproduced verbatim and arranged according to the sections of the statute to which they pertain. Materials related to both the original enactment and the 1979 amendments are included. The book contains the full text of Title I as it appeared in successive versions of the bill and an introductory essay about the genesis and the development of the Act.
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Model Criminal Jury Instructions

The criminal jury instructions contained in this book were prepared under the auspices of the Federal Judicial Center's Committee to Study Criminal Jury Instructions.
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A Validation and Comparative Evaluation of Four Predictive Devices for Classifying Federal Probation Caseloads — A Report to the Committee of the Judicial Conference of the United States on the Administration of the Probation System

Reports on an evaluation of the comparative validity of four risk prediction scales used for classifying federal probation caseloads. The authors found the U.S.D.C. 75 Scale to have the best balance of validity and predictive power, and they recommend that it be used by all U.S. probation officers. (The U.S.D.C. 75 Scale was subsequently modified and renamed the Risk Prediction Scale 80 and is now undergoing modification again. It is in use in all federal probation offices.)
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Risk Prediction Index (RPI)

In March 1997, the Judicial Conference approved the Risk Prediction Index (RPI) for use in all new probation and supervised-release cases. The U.S. Parole Commission allowed its use in new parole cases. The RPI is a statistical model that uses information about an offender to estimate the likelihood that the offender will recidivate (that is, be arrested or have supervision revoked) during his or her term of supervision. The RPI was developed by the Federal Judicial Center, at the request of the Judicial Conference Committee on Criminal Law, to help probation officers assess the risk of recidivism posed by offenders under post-sentence supervision.
(Risk Prediction Index FAQs)