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Monday, May 20, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Rise in Serious Offenders|Is Straining Resources

(CN) -The number of serious criminal offenders who require closer supervision by federal probation officers has increased by 20 percent in the last decade, the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts found.

The increase comes at a time when probation and pretrial services staffing in the federal judiciary has declined by 5 percent, the office found. As a result, pressure on existing resources has increased as post-conviction caseloads across all categories have risen 19 percent over the last decade, it said.

U.S. Sentencing Guidelines categorize offenders by the extent and seriousness of their past misconduct. The top two categories, which have seen the 20 percent increase, includes offenders with serious criminal records, resulting in longer periods of imprisonment.

These two categories include career criminals and armed career criminals, who have multiple prior convictions for drug trafficking or violent crimes. Since 2003, those who have been designated as "career criminals" in the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines have increased by nearly a third, from 2,174 in 2003 to 2,850 in 2013.

Over the last decade, mental health and substance abuse problems among the overall offender population has increased, which has also strained resources. Offenders across all categories who have received treatment for mental health issues have increased by 60 percent, while those being treated for substance abuse have increased by a third.

The number of offenders who meet the definition of "sex offender" have more than tripled in the last 10 years.

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