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July 18, 2014

USSC votes for full (though slightly delayed) retroactivity of new reduced drug guidelines

I just received this early report via a credible source as to what the US Sentencing Commission did this afternoon on the issue of making its new lower guidelines retroactive:

The Commission just voted unanimously to make the "drugs minus 2" amendment retroactive with a single limitation -- no order reducing a sentence can take effect until Nov. 1, 2015.  This is later than the Judicial Conference recommended (they proposed that it effect in May 2015 to give courts and probation time to prepare)....

The Commission predicts that more than 46,000 will be eligible to seek a reduction.  Part of the reason for the delayed effective date is to make sure each inmate is released with a re-entry plan and the opportunity for transitional steps such as halfway houses or home confinement.

UPDATE:  Here is a link to the USSC's official press release about its vote, which starts this way:

The United States Sentencing Commission voted unanimously today at a public meeting to apply a reduction in the sentencing guideline levels applicable to most federal drug trafficking offenders retroactively, meaning that many offenders currently in prison could be eligible for reduced sentences beginning November 2015.

The Commission voted unanimously in April to amend the guidelines to lower the base offense levels in the Drug Quantity Table across drug types, which may mean lower sentences for most drug offenders going forward.  Today the Commission decided that judges could extend that reduction to offenders currently in prison, but with a requirement that reduced sentences cannot take effect until November 1, 2015.  Under the guidelines, no offender would be released unless a judge reviews the case to determine whether a reduced sentence poses a risk to public safety and is otherwise appropriate.

“This amendment received unanimous support from Commissioners because it is a measured approach,” said Judge Patti B. Saris, chair of the Commission. “It reduces prison costs and populations and responds to statutory and guidelines changes since the drug guidelines were initially developed, while safeguarding public safety.”

Congress has until November 1, 2014 to disapprove the amendment to reduce drug guidelines. Should Congress choose to let the guideline reductions stand, courts could then begin considering petitions from prisoners for sentence reductions, but no prisoners could be released pursuant to those reductions before November 1, 2015.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Here is a link to the official statement in response to this vote from AG Eric Holder, which runs this single paragraph:

“The department looks forward to implementing this plan to reduce sentences for certain incarcerated individuals. We have been in ongoing discussions with the Commission during its deliberations on this issue, and conveyed the department's support for this balanced approach. In the interest of fairness, it makes sense to apply changes to the sentencing guidelines retroactively, and the idea of a one-year implementation delay will adequately address public safety concerns by ensuring that judges have adequate time to consider whether an eligible individual is an appropriate candidate for a reduced sentence. At my direction, the Bureau of Prisons will begin notifying federal inmates of the opportunity to apply for a reduction in sentence immediately. This is a milestone in the effort to make more efficient use of our law enforcement resources and to ease the burden on our overcrowded prison system."

July 18, 2014 at 01:41 PM | Permalink


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This is fantastic. Now if congress can continue to do nothing, this will be a huge accomplishment. When they put in the yr long delay, it totally shot down Holders wishes.

Its a very good day in deed. Now if it can just go thru, America is on the right road.

Yes, Yes... Very good...I am extremely impressed.

Posted by: Midwest Guy | Jul 18, 2014 4:19:15 PM

These reforms&reductions should apply to state prisoners also.Compassionate Release, and all should apply also to state not just to federal. Especially offenders who are no threat to anyone. A lot of inmates are serving time that are innocent, and who couldn't afford attorneys who would represent on their behalf. Prisons are overcrowded and costs states lots of money . The care to inmates is an issue. So instead of getting in more debt by giving lengthy sentences to people who are no threat just release them so they can get back to work and generate income that circulates in the economy instead of costing the economy.

Posted by: Lisa McDaniel | Jul 18, 2014 5:50:27 PM

We will see if Holders pawns only notify history category 1and 2 and limits thru other

If he goes straight across the board, based on sentceing by drug qty, then he is bigger than I thought. Time will tell. But he is the DOJ, so trust not.

Posted by: Midwest Guy | Jul 18, 2014 8:41:27 PM

We'll have a little party and then move right along. We need sentencing relief for nonviolent drug offenders serving sentences of life without parole. For many of these nonviolent people the run way is getting short.

Posted by: beth | Jul 18, 2014 9:11:57 PM

can anyone tell me if this applys to career criminal

Posted by: myesha | Jul 18, 2014 9:39:54 PM


If you mean defendants who were sentenced as Career Offenders, the answer is no.

Posted by: USPO | Jul 18, 2014 11:05:40 PM

Beth, I totally agree with you on life for drug offenders. Around here all we have us drug offenders, not violent ones. Just ordinary people that played with drugs in high school and got taken down by it. 3 strikes and your out. Large qty of psuedo. Psuedo is 5 times higher than meth. Not crystal or pure meth, but the stuff the addicts make that arent in such good shape. No distiction with psuedo..

Crack users got life. If I raped and beat you up Beth, I would get out in 10 to 20 depending on the state your from and specific info. (Referring to state) but with drugs one can get 30 to life without too much trouble. Beth, I dont know you, but would not hurt you or any other woman. I would hope job traing would be substitued for straight prison for those that have capabilities. Be much better than having ghem play softball
And watch tv for an eternity.

We will see what today brings down the road. But Im impressed with how the USSC laid it out and dodged Holder with the yr delay. Good minds....

Posted by: Midwest Guy | Jul 18, 2014 11:45:42 PM

Can you tell me if this will apply to State inmates as well?

Posted by: Darnell | Jul 25, 2014 9:58:11 AM

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