« With overcrowded prisons and under court order, Italy is the California of Europe when it comes to punishment practices | Main | "Efforts to Fix a Broken System: Brown v. Plata and the Prison Overcrowding Epidemic" »

June 18, 2013

Seeking comments on what to say in comments to the US Sentencing Commission about its priorities

A wise colleague wisely suggested to me that this year might be an especially wise time to convert all my ideas and concerns about the work of the US Sentencing Commission into formal comments for formal submission to the USSC as a formal response to this formal statement of the USSC's proposed priority policy issues for the amendment cycle ending May 1, 2014.

The USSC's six-page Federal Register statement of tentative priorities lists just about every topic that has consumed the recent work of the Commission, ranging from mandatory minimums to post-Booker sentencing patterns to the child porn guidelines to the drug guidelines to economic crimes and lots of stuff in between (including even some back-end sentencing stuff like the compassionate release guidelines).  Nevertheless, there are still plenty of topics not mentioned that I think should be high on the Commission's agenda, ranging from the impact of sequester on the operation of the federal criminal justice system to the enduring need for serious guideline simplification to the overwhelming problem of undue sentencing severity.

Here is the official statement of the official rules for submitting official public comments to the USSC:

The Commission hereby gives notice that it is seeking comment on [its] tentative priorities and on any other issues that interest ed persons believe the Commission should address during the amendment cycle ending May 1, 2014.  To the extent practicable, public comment should include the following: (1) a statement of the issue, including, where appropriate, the scope and manner of study, particular problem areas and possible solutions, and any other matters relevant to a proposed priority; (2) citations to applicable sentencing guidelines, statutes, case law, and constitutional provisions; and (3) a direct and concise statement of why the Commission should make the issue a priority.

Appropriately, the final line in the USSC's notice includes this fitting kicker: "Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 994( g), the Commission also invites public comment that addresses the issue of reducing costs of incarceration and overcapacity of prisons, to the extent it is relevant to a proposed priority."

So, to the extent practicable, I would love to hear from readers about what they think I should make sure to put into my formal comments to the USSC.  I have until July 15 to get this done, but I would very much like to have a document ready to send out not long after I enjoy the rocket's red blare this coming Independence Day.

June 18, 2013 at 08:59 AM | Permalink


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Seeking comments on what to say in comments to the US Sentencing Commission about its priorities:


Hi Doug, I have some items if you wouldn't mind passing along to the USSC might be enlightening.

Because there are multiple substances, everything is converted to Kilograms of
marihuana. Following table shows 1 gram of each, converted to Marihuana equivlant.

Marihuana Ratio to
1 Gram Equivlant Powder Cocaine
Cocaine 200 gm 1:1
Meth 2 kgm 10:1
New Crack 3.6 kgm 18:1
Psuedo 10 kgm 50:1
Pure Meth 20 kgm 100:1

. What the guidelines has done is to give the ratio compared to pure meth…If that’s what was found , then yes use the 10kgm rate, else use a 1 kgm conversion rate…I say 1 kgm as roughly 50% is lost in manufacturing, as indicated by, pure meth at 20 kgm to 10 kgm for psuedo. Its obvious that a 5:1 ratio of psuedo to meth is grossly over stated. Those sentences with psuedo need to have this fixed retroactively.
Would be nice if the USSC could contact Judges like Bennett and Gertner that work daily with these problems. (like that will happen, but it should)

Given the length of sentences, they need to consider a lot more good time days, go back to 1986, serve 65% of the sentence.

Life sentences for drugs, 3 strikes and your out...This is way overdone unless your Pueblo Eskabar. (sorely mispelled)
I know they have there 4-5 prongs and they are weak..Most will get 1000 ft. Which should be eliminated, its an enhancement.
They include parks, playgrounds.. Lots of these spread in metro areas.. And their activity was out of sight and had nothing to do
with these locations. It doesnt make children any safer.. If the activity effected or was relevant then add it on. But to just measure
as the crow flies, property line to peoperty line is LIMP... The actiivty could occur on the outskirts of the property and lets say the property
is huge, 1 mile long... It doesn't matter, they measure from the property line of the protected area to beginning property line of
the crime.. Only a Federal weeny would do that..So the activity could 3/4 of a mile away, but it counts as within 1000 ft...

Given the length of sentences, Supervised Release should be considered as part of the sentence.
Given 10 yrs and 3 yrs supervision, you do 7 in prison and 3 Release...If you violate your Release, when you get out, you donot go back on supersion, your done. The idea is to move them along not try and manage people forever..Plus Serve 65% of these warehouse type sentences

I apologize for my poor gramar and typos Doug and my slanted attitude....The Feds are so out of line and Bloated its
very difficult to stomach, these guys get paid a salary.. The USSC sits and goes thru the guidelines with a microscope.
ie: When the FSA came out for crack, they include a 2 level enhancement for running a drug house.
Really, your already getting hammered with their drug equiv tables and everyone has stored chemicals or make it in a house, building
or shed out back....Hate crimes were inclue in the FSA. How does one tell the USSC you are the problem..

Uncharged Relevant Conduct: favorite case, duck hunter gets 30 yrs, posted on this site. This guy went from a felon in possesion of
a Remington 870 (remember that part) to an ACCA case, to getting 30 yrs.. The Judge decided on his own, the pipe bombs he supposed mailed to his ex girl friend should count as 15 additional yrs.. Really...As if 15 yrs from an ACCA wouldn't of taught this nasty a lesson...
So uncharged relevant Conduct needs to get dropped or a Jury needs to do it and not like the MM from scotus in yesterdays decision.

Thank you for the opportunity to include some items that really need changing....
You do a good job running this blog Doug..

Posted by: MidWest Guy | Jun 18, 2013 10:33:43 AM

Good point about the 1000 feet laws. When you live an urban area, you are always within 1000 feet of some school, day care center, park or public property. You could be in front of your own residence and get the 1000 ft enhancement. No "intent" to be near a school, just the "intent" to enter your place of residence.

And yes to 65% good time and the LWOP for non-violent drug crimes, too. Yes, Midwest Guy is right there are too many lower level offenders being treated like they are Pablo Escobar. While some who qualify as actual "drug lords" are able to make deals to serve 20 - 30 years.

There are many non-violent and white collar Federal crimes that really should result in probation/community supervision for first time offenders. That seems to happen rarely...the Federal courts should really expand the use of community supervision programs and even drug courts if they insist on continuing to assume the role that the states should be playing in prosecuting most drug crimes.

Posted by: 8th Amendment | Jun 18, 2013 11:41:22 AM

Delinking drug guidelines from drug quantity.

Posted by: Public Defender | Jun 18, 2013 12:07:56 PM

The composition of the Sentencing Commission, all lawyer elites is an abomination. It must include victims and criminals or at least regular jury pool types.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jun 18, 2013 3:20:04 PM

I think this is a very good time to give the USSC a broad overview of your thoughts. If my political change meter is at all accurate, it seems to me that the time has come for some broad - if not sweeping change. They need all the help they can get to find a more rational solution to our current incarceration dilemma.

Posted by: beth | Jun 18, 2013 3:50:16 PM

If compassionate release could not be easy to rubber stamped DENIED as it is now, that would be fantastic.

Posted by: widow | Jun 18, 2013 4:15:31 PM

You could urge the commissioners to stop kidding themselves. The commission wasn't created to bring about sentencing uniformity. It was created and exists still to further the interests of demagogic political opportunists such as Nixon, Reagan and their mostly Republican progeny.

It should have been called the Get-tough Commission...and only more recently have its chickens -- budget deficits from police-state and prison-spending pogroms and the ugly character stain reserved for nations that stand alone in their predilection for harsh punishment -- come home to roost.

Posted by: JohnK | Jun 20, 2013 8:34:57 AM

Post a comment

In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB