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August 17, 2017

US Sentencing Commission finalizes policy priorities and publishes notable holdover amendments

As reported in this press release, the US Sentencing Commission "today approved its final policy priorities for the upcoming amendment year ending May 1, 2018, which includes an examination of the overall structure of the guidelines and a continuation of its work on synthetic drugs [and] voted to publish several holdover proposals from the previous amendment cycle."  Here is more:

During the upcoming amendment year, the Commission will continue to explore approaches to simplify and strengthen the guidelines. “On this thirtieth year of the federal sentencing guidelines system, the Commission welcomes the opportunity to work with the Congress, the Courts, the Department of Justice, and other stakeholders to find ways to promote certainty and proportionality in sentencing while reducing the complexity of the guidelines,” stated Circuit Judge William H. Pryor, Jr., acting chair of the Commission.

The Commission will also continue its two-year study of synthetic drugs. In April, the Commission held a public hearing to receive testimony on the prevalence and effect of synthetic drugs. The Commission has since commenced a study of specific categories of synthetic drugs, including fentanyl. The Commission will research their chemical structure, pharmacological effects, potential for addiction, legislative and scheduling history, and other relevant issues. The study is intended to provide a meaningful distinction between categories of synthetic drugs so that closely related substances are more easily determined in the guidelines....

Stemming from the Commission’s research on youthful offenders as well as recommendations made by the Tribal Issues Advisory Group (TIAG) in its May 2016 report, the Commission will also continue to study how juvenile sentences are considered in the calculation of the defendant’s criminal history score.

Other priorities include continued work on mandatory minimum penalties. Following the release of the 2017 Mandatory Minimum Overview in July, which built on the Commission’s 2011 report, the Commission will release additional reports highlighting the impact of mandatory minimum penalties for certain offense categories. The Commission will also continue to work with Congress to adopt a uniform definition of “crime of violence” included in recommendations set forth in the 2016 Report to the Congress on Career Offender Sentencing Enhancements.

The Commission also published today several proposed guideline amendments from the previous amendment cycle and as an extension of its current policy priority work. “Today’s proposed amendments are a continuation of our work during the previous amendment year. These holdover proposals were not voted on last year due to the lack of a quorum during the deliberation process. Publishing today gives this reconstituted Commission an opportunity to carefully review these proposals and consider them as early as possible in the current amendment cycle,” stated Judge Pryor.

Among the proposed amendments published today are changes that would increase the number of federal offenders eligible for alternatives to incarceration. Informed by the Commission’s multi-year study on recidivism, one of the proposed amendments would add a downward adjustment to the guidelines for first offenders.

August 17, 2017 at 01:03 PM | Permalink

Comments

The changes are all lopsided, and biased in favor of the criminal, and are totally adverse to the crime victim.

Posted by: David Behar | Aug 18, 2017 6:25:09 AM

Great Job Security, just "continue to explore approaches to simplify and strengthen the guidelines".
Nothing ever gets "done", just "explored" on and on.....

Posted by: kat | Aug 19, 2017 6:02:07 PM

The record number of comments was probably the result of a campaign by a nonprofit group named Prisology (see prisology.org). Prisology has rewritten the sentencing table that appears in Chapter 5 of the Guidelines, and wants the USSC to consider it. It collected somewhere north of 90,000 signatures on prewritten comments urging the new table on the Commission. For more on Prisology's tilting-at-windmills campaign, see
http://www.lisa-legalinfo.com/2017/07/11/rethinking-prisologys-hail-mary-update-for-july-11-2017/

I would not read too much into the gross number of comments this time around. I think it's an anomaly due to a single campaign.

Posted by: Tom Root | Aug 21, 2017 6:57:39 AM

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