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Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX)

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If you benefit from the reduction in mandatory minimums under this law, it does not entitle you to a get-out-of-jail free card. All you get under this bill is a hearing in front of the same federal judge who put you in prison in the first place, in front of the same prosecutor who prosecuted you, who can consider all the facts and circumstances in determining whether it is something he ought to grant.”

Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), speaking about the Senate Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act (S. 2123), as quoted in The Washington Examiner, on April 28, 2016.

We gave Senator Cornyn’s statement ZERO BARS because it is TRUE. While the Senate reform bill would make some federal prisoners eligible for shorter sentences, the bill does not mandate or guarantee early release for anyone.

  •  First, it is important to understand the narrow scope of the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act’s retroactive provisions. There are currently 195,000 people in federal prisons, and about 85,000 of them (46 percent) are drug offenders. Of these 85,000, the bill would permit about 7,000 – just 8 percent – the opportunity to seek a sentence reduction in federal court.
  • More generally, Senator Cornyn is correct that the bill does not guarantee any prisoner early release. Specifically, a federal prisoner who is eligible to seek a shorter sentence would have to file a motion in federal court. The judge who hears the motion would be obliged to consider any and all relevant facts, including whether the prisoner exhibited good behavior in prison, participated in rehabilitation and drug treatment programming, engaged in violence, or represented a continuing threat to public safety. Prosecutors would have the opportunity to argue against the release of any individual they believed might be a threat to public safety. Judges would be free to deny sentence reductions to anyone they considered a danger to the public.

 FAMM is a nonpartisan, nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization. FAMM does not endorse any candidate or party in any election, and it does not make any campaign contributions. The information here is not provided and should not be interpreted as an endorsement of any particular candidate or party. 

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