According to the Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs, which analyzed a release of federal arrest data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, arrests by federal law enforcement agencies declined by 35% between fiscal year (FY) 2020 to FY 2021.
Additionally, during the height of the pandemic between the months of Mar. and Apr. 2020, federal arrests declined by 81%, and cases charged in federal court declined by 35%, with an additional decline of 25% in arrests from Oct. 2020 to Feb. 2021.
The largest percentage decrease in arrests from FY 2020 to FY 2021 was for immigration offenses (down 72%). Conversely, arrests for property offenses went on the rise, jumping 11% over this same period.
During FY 2021, 47,226 people were released from federal prison — most for the first time since their incarceration.
Arrests and charges in court saw a marked decline, but the same could not be said for the number of charges filed in U.S. district courts — those decreased by just 1%. But during this time, the distribution of charges shifted heavily away from immigration offenses, which decreased by 18%, and toward violent offenses and public order offenses:
While federal arrests declined substantially from FY 2020 to FY 2021, the number of persons charged with a federal offense in U.S. district court decreased less than 1%, from 66,059 to 65,880. During that period, the number of persons charged with violent offenses increased 18% and the number charged with public order offenses increased 13%, while the number of persons charged with immigration offenses decreased 18%.
Of the 63,380 defendants adjudicated in federal district courts in FY 2021, about 9 in 10 were convicted. Among those convicted, nearly three-quarters (74%) were sentenced to prison. The median prison sentence for persons convicted was 37 months. Among persons sentenced to prison, both white and black defendants were sentenced to a median of 60 months.
The Office of Justice Programs provides “federal leadership, grants, training, technical assistance and other resources” with the intent being to improve the justice system and prevent future crime from developing.