Report Summary

Published today, this report examines the application of mandatory minimum penalties specific to federal sex offenses; it is the sixth and final in the Commission’s recent series of publications on mandatory minimum penalties.

Using fiscal year 2016 data, this publication includes analyses of the two types of federal sex offenses carrying mandatory minimum penalties, sexual abuse offenses and child pornography offenses, as well their impact on the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) population.  In addition to analyzing child pornography offenses generally, this publication analyzes child pornography offenses by offense type, exploring differences in frequency, offender characteristics, and sentencing outcomes for distribution, receipt, and possession offenses.  Where appropriate, the publication highlights changes and trends since the Commission’s 2011 Mandatory Minimum Report.

General Key Findings

  • Mandatory minimum penalties for sex offenses are applied less often in the federal system compared to other mandatory minimum penalties.
  • Sex offenses, however, increased in number and as a percentage of the federal
    docket, and sex offenders were more frequently convicted of an offense carrying a mandatory minimum penalty.
  • Sex offenders are demographically different than offenders convicted of other
    offenses carrying mandatory minimum penalties.
  • Offenders convicted of sex offenses carrying a mandatory minimum penalty are
    sentenced to longer terms than those convicted of sex offenses not carrying a mandatory minimum penalty.
  • Although Commission analysis has demonstrated that there is little meaningful
    distinction between the conduct involved in receipt and possession offenses, the
    average sentence for offenders convicted of a receipt offense, which carries a five-year mandatory minimum penalty, is substantially longer than the average sentence for offenders convicted of a possession offense, which carries no mandatory minimum penalty.
  • While still constituting a relatively small percentage of the overall prison population, the number of both sexual abuse offenders and child pornography offenders in BOP custody has steadily increased, with both reaching population highs as of September 30, 2016.

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