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Prisoners With Long Terms Spending Much More Time Behind Bars

The time prisoners with sentences of 10 years or more spend behind bars has increased and the share of people over 55 serving such penalties more than doubled between 2005 and 2019, the Council on Criminal Justice says in a new report. Overall, more than half of state prisoners are serving long sentences. At 2019's end, 57 percent of people in prison had been sentenced to 10 years or more, up from 46 percent in 2005. The average length of time served by that group increased from 9.7 years to 15.5 years. The group's analysis found that the racial gap between sentences of Black and whites widened from one percentage point in 2005 to four in 2019. Blacks were more likely to receive long sentences for violent crimes.


The report was the first from the Council's Task Force on Long Sentences, co-chaired by former U.S. Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates and former U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC). The group will recommend changes relating to long sentences in December. “For decades, long sentences have been a major part of our nation’s response to serious and violent crime, but the myriad impacts of those sentences are not well understood,”

said task force director John Maki. “This new and comprehensive collection of data advances our knowledge substantially and lays a strong foundation for our task force as it considers potential changes to enhance safety, promote restoration for victims, and improve post-release outcomes for those who serve prison time.” The report was based on data from the U.S. Department of Justice's National Corrections Reporting Program, but it did not include data from the federal criminal justice system.