WASHINGTON, D.C. — FAMM President Julie Stewart released the following statement today in reaction to the U.S. Sentencing Commission’s latest Preliminary Crack Retroactivity Data report:
Consider for a moment how proud members of Congress would be if they used the best available evidence and data to reform a federal program in a way that maintained all of the program’s benefits but saved nearly half a billion dollars in taxpayer money? Their press shops would be churning out press releases about how wise these leaders were and what a great victory they had achieved for taxpayers across the land.
Well, just over two years ago, the U.S. Sentencing Commission, at FAMM’s urging, made exactly this type of move. After Congress voted to repudiate the 100-to-1 crack-power cocaine sentencing disparity, the Commission wisely decided to change its guidelines to reflect Congress’s correction and to apply the new sentence recommendations to those who were already in prison. After all, the Commission reasoned, those excessive and indefensible sentences were the ones that prompted Congress to change the law in the first place.
FAMM strongly supported the Commission’s decision, but some in Congress strongly attacked it. They said the move represented a major threat to public safety, as violent criminals would be set loose on unsuspecting communities. They also predicted the Commission’s action would squander federal resources on resentencing hearings for eligible prisoners.
Based on everything we’ve learned to date – including the Sentencing Commission’s new report – those predictions have been proven dead wrong. We now know that the federal courts, U.S. Attorneys, and defense bar have worked well to implement the new guidelines. As a result of their efforts, more than 7,300 defendants have received, on average, a 29-month reduction in their sentences. This average reduction lowered the average crack sentence from 12.5 years to just over 10 years. Thus, even with the changes, no one escaped serious prison time. And, yet, the modest sentence reductions have generated enormous budget savings: roughly half a billion dollars!
What about the predictions of a new violent crime spree? The fact is that national violent crime rates have fallen over the past few years. Moreover, we know from previous Commission analysis that those who were released early due to the retroactive guidelines change have been no more likely to reoffend than those who served their full sentences.
In short, taxpayers have received the same level of crime control but for a half- billion dollars cheaper. What’s not to love?
FAMM is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that advocates for fair, individualized, and proportionate sentences that fit the crime and the individual while protecting public safety. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
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