For Congressional Staff: Briefing Book on Mandatory Minimum Sentences

FAMM has compiled an easy-to-use briefing book to help Members of Congress and their staff members write, introduce, and support mandatory minimum sentencing reforms and safety valve reforms. Learn the basics about mandatory minimum sentences, find complete lists of them (scroll to the bottom), consider model legislative language, and read what law enforcement, prison officials, experts, advocates, judges, and other agencies have said about them. FAMM is available to work and consult with staff and lawmakers on pending and proposed legislation.

Contact:  Molly Gill, government affairs counsel, mgill@famm.org or 202-822-6700

 

FAMM’s Mandatory Minimum Briefing Book

Part I:  Understanding Federal Sentencing

Factsheet: How Federal Sentencing Works: Mandatory Minimums, Statutory Maximums, and Sentencing Guidelines

Factsheet: Mandatory minimum sentencing laws in a nutshell

Factsheet: Safety valves in a nutshell

Factsheet: Alternatives to incarceration in a nutshell

Understanding a Basic Federal Drug Case Sentencing (understand how the guidelines, mandatory minimums, and safety valve work together at sentencing)

U.S. Sentencing Commission (USSC) Quick Facts:  Who Receives Mandatory Minimum Sentences

2014 Federal Drug Offenders Receiving Mandatory Minimums (USSC)

2014 Federal Drug Offenders Receiving Mandatory Minimums and Safety Valve Relief (USSC)

Report: Correcting Course: Lessons from the 1970 Repeal of Mandatory Minimums (understand the history of our federal mandatory minimum drug sentencing laws)

Factsheet: A brief history of crack cocaine sentencing laws

 

Part II: Understanding Who’s in Prison and What it Costs

State vs. Federal Prison Populations

Snapshot of Federal Drug Offenders

Federal Prison Spending – Unsustainable and Dangerous 

BOP Statistics:  Who’s in Federal Prison Now

How Federal Mandatory Minimums for Nonviolent Drug Offenders Make us Less Safe

 

Part III:  Statutes and Technical Materials

Chart: All federal mandatory minimum sentences (as of Nov. 10, 2015) 

Chart: Mandatory minimum drug sentences, 21 U.S.C. s. 841 

Chart: Mandatory minimum drug sentences: Continuing criminal enterprise (CCE), 21 U.S.C. § 848 

Chart: Mandatory minimum gun sentences: Use or carrying a gun, 18 U.S.C. § 924(c) 

Chart: Mandatory minimum gun sentences: Armed Career Criminal Act, 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)

Exception #1 to Mandatory Minimum Sentences: The Safety Valve for Drug Offenses, 18 U.S.C. § 3553(f)

Exception #2 to Mandatory Minimum Sentences: Substantial Assistance, 18 U.S.C. § 3553(e)

The Federal Sentencing Statute: 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a)

Chart: Federal mandatory minimums passed, expanded, or increased by Congress between 2002-2012 

Graph: Federal mandatory minimums passed, expanded, or increased by Congress between 1987-2012 

 

Part IV:  Advocacy Materials

Responding to Prosecutors: FAMM’s Response to Prosecutor Arguments Against Reform (July 2015)

What the Experts Say — see what leaders, thinkers, and policymakers are saying about sentencing reform

What the Public Thinks — get the latest poll results on mandatory minimum sentencing

Factsheet: Better Data = Better Sentences: Data to Request from the U.S. Sentencing Commission When New Mandatory Minimums Are Proposed — how to be smart on crime when introducing new sentencing legislation

Recent State-level Reforms to Mandatory Minimum Laws — is your state on the list?

Safety Valves in the States: Turning Off the Spigot: How Sentencing Safety Valves Can Help States Protect Public Safety and Save Money (March 2013) — see how states are giving judges discretion, without increasing crime

The Urban Institute report on cost-saving potential of mandatory minimum sentencing reform: Stemming the Tide (Nov. 2013) — see which policy changes will save the most

 

Part V: Sample Legislative Language for Mandatory Minimum Sentencing Reform

Reform Bills Introduced in the 114th Congress

Criminal Law Checklist for Federal Lawmakers

American Legislative Exchange Council’s Model Safety Valve Language

H.R. 2944, SAFE Justice Act (114th Congress) (creates broader safety valve exception, limits application of federal mandatory minimum drug laws)

S. 353/H.R. 706, Justice Safety Valve Act (114th Congress) (creates broader safety valve exception)

S. 502/H.R. 920, Smarter Sentencing Act (114th Congress) (reduces drug mandatory minimums, expands existing safety valve)

H.R. 3489, Major Drug Trafficking Prosecution Act (114th Congress) (repeals drug mandatory minimums)

H.R. 1254, Recidivism Clarification Act (114th Congress) (corrects gun mandatory minimums)

 

Part VI: Law Enforcement and Victim Group Support for Mandatory Minimum Sentencing Reform

Association of Prosecuting Attorneys: Letter supporting S. 1410/H.R. 3382, the Smarter Sentencing Act (113th Congress)

Former Prosecutors and Judges: Letter supporting S. 1410/H.R. 3382, the Smarter Sentencing Act (113th Congress)

National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence Against Women: Letter supporting S. 1410/H.R. 3382, the Smarter Sentencing Act (113th Congress)

International Union of Police Associations, AFL-CIO: Letter supporting S. 1410/H.R. 3382, the Smarter Sentencing Act (113th Congress)

Council of Prison Locals, AFGE: Letter from federal prison guards supporting S. 1410/H.R. 3382, the Smarter Sentencing Act (113th Congress)

American Federation of Government Employees, AFL-CIO: Letter from federal prison guards supporting S. 1410/H.R. 3382, the Smarter Sentencing Act (113th Congress)

American Correctional Association’s Resolution Supporting Mandatory Minimum Sentencing Reform

America Correctional Association’s Public Correctional Policy on Sentencing

Council of Prison Locals, American Federation of Government Employees, AFL-CIO, Statement to U.S. House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations, supporting federal mandatory minimum sentencing reform (Sept. 19, 2013) 

U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Announces Support for Mandatory Minimum Sentencing Reform (Aug. 12, 2013)

Attorney General Holder’s Mandatory Minimum Charging Policy Memo to Federal Prosecutors (Aug. 12, 2013)

Attorney General Holder’s Memo to Federal Prosecutors Making Revised Mandatory Minimum Charging Policies Retroactive (Aug. 29, 2013)

Attorney General Holder Announces Expansion of DOJ’s Revised Mandatory Minimum Charging Policies (Sept. 19, 2013)

 

Part VII:  Expert Testimony and Hearings

Charles Koch Institute Briefing: “Reaching the Tipping Point: The Future of Bipartisan Sentencing and Prison Reform” (Nov. 12, 2014)

Hearing: “Reevaluating the Effectiveness of Federal Mandatory Minimum Sentences,” before the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary (Sept. 18, 2013)

Testimony of Brett Tolman, former U.S. Attorney for the District of Utah, before the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary (Sept. 18, 2013)

Testimony of Marc Levin, Policy Director, Right on Crime Initiative of the Texas Public Policy Foundation, before the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary (Sept. 18, 2013)

Statement of Judge Patti Saris, Chair, U.S. Sentencing Commission, submitted to the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary (Sept. 18, 2013)

Statement of Julie Stewart, President, Families Against Mandatory Minimums, submitted to the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary (Sept. 18, 2013)

Testimony of Grover Norquist, President, Americans for Tax Reform (pp. 66-71), before the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security, U.S. House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary (July 14, 2009)

Testimony of Erik Luna, Washington and Lee School of Law Alumni Faculty Fellow and Cato Institute Adjunct Scholar, before the U.S. Sentencing Commission (May 27, 2010)

Prepared Statement of David A. Keene, Chairman, American Conservative Union (pp. 117-119), submitted to the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary (July 14, 2009)

Testimony of former Judge Paul Cassell, District of Utah, before the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security, U.S. House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary (June 26, 2007) 

 

Part VIII:  U.S. Sentencing Commission, Judicial Conference, Congressional Research Service, &  Findings

Congressional Research Service Report: “The Federal Prison Population Buildup: Overview, Policy Changes, Issues, and Options” (Apr. 15, 2014)

National Academy of Sciences, 2014 Report: The Growth of Incarceration in the United States

Judicial Conference, Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, Letter to Chairman Patrick Leahy and Ranking Member Chuck Grassley supporting mandatory minimum reform (Sept. 17, 2013)

U.S. Sentencing Commission, Report to Congress:  Mandatory Minimum Penalties in the Federal Criminal Justice System, (Oct. 2011)

U.S. Sentencing Commission, 2014 Sourcebook of Federal Sentencing Statistics

U.S. Sentencing Commission, Results of Survey of United States District Judges, January 2010 through March 2010, (June 2010)