USSC 2017-2018 Amendment Cycle

Post Date: August 4, 2017

FAMM has weighed in with the U.S. Sentencing Commission as it begins the work of considering amendments to the federal sentencing guidelines.

We had a lot to say.

First, we told the Commission that while we support their focus on simplifying the guidelines, we worry that they will use that effort to ask Congress to make the guidelines mandatory. Mandatory guidelines would cover every crime.  We told the Commission that its work to uncover the harms caused by mandatory minimums is exhibit number one in the case against mandatory guidelines. In fact, the Commission just released a new mandatory minimum report that we used to support our position.

We didn’t just wag our finger though. We also saw a lot to support in the Commission’s proposed priorities, including work to convince Congress to limit the Career Offender guideline. The Commission issued a Career Offender report last year that included some good recommendations to Congress. For example, the Commission encouraged Congress to pass a bill that would limit Career Offender sentencing to defendants with crimes of violence. But, we also told the Commission it should explore ways to amend the guidelines without new legislation from Congress. 

We also told the Commission that we support ongoing work

  • to study mandatory minimum sentences, educate lawmakers and the public about them, and promote reforms in Congress, including expanding the safety valve and lowering mandatory minimum enhancements in the drug and gun statutes
  • to create a true first offender adjustment that would allow judges to lower sentences for first offenders (we wrote about this proposal last year. You can read our letter here)
  • to refine how criminal history is counted, for example, for crimes committed when the defendant was a juvenile

And, we suggested some other areas the Commission might focus on this year, including

  • examining how to lessen certain sentences for child pornography offenses
  • ending the practice of counting crimes of which the defendant has been found not guilty by a jury in a defendant’s “relevant conduct” to drive a sentence up
  • commending a proposal by a group of organizations, including the American Conservative Union, #Cut50 and others that the Commission study the impact on minor children of parental incarceration.

The Commission will post all the public comments on its website shortly. We will keep you posted on developments.