Former Judges, Prosecutors, and Law Enforcement Officials Support Retroactive Application of Sentencing Guideline Amendment

A letter from 35 former judges, prosecutors, and law enforcement officials was sent to the United States Sentencing Commission on July 7 supporting the retroactive application of an amendment to the drug sentencing guidelines that the commission unanimously approved in April.

The letter, which TCP organized, urges the commission to apply the amendment retroactively to the thousands of currently incarcerated inmates sentenced under the previous guidelines.  Retroactive application would allow 51,141 federal prisoners serving time for nonviolent drug offenses to petition for a sentence reduction of two years, on average, subject to review by the judges assigned to their cases.

The amendment adopted in April will reduce sentences for many drug-related crimes in line with existing mandatory minimums by reducing the base offenses across all drug types by two levels. Three weeks prior to the vote, TCP organized a letter from many of the same former judges and prosecutors urging the sentencing commission to adopt the amendment.  TCP President Virginia Sloan called adoption of the new guideline a “small but important step in the right direction.”

The letter supporting retroactivity for the amendment highlights the signatories’ concerns about the current financial strain on the federal prison system, and calls retroactive application of this amendment “a critical component to the systemic solutions needed to relieve the burden of overpopulation.”

The commission voted unanimously on retroactive application of the guideline on July 18.  The implementation will be delayed, however, with the first prisoners affected by the change likely to be released early in November 2015.

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