Sentencing Commission Lists “Economic Crimes,” “Mandatory Minimums” as 2015 Priorities
By Derek Gilna
The U.S. Sentencing Commission is an interesting body. Created by Congress to deal with complex sentencing issues, with a minimum of legislative direction and oversight, it now enjoys wide discretion to make serious changes to sentencing law, subject only to a veto by Congress prior to the effective date of any changes. The most recent two-level drug reduction is a perfect example; Congress could have derailed it, but chose not to. That’s a nice way to pass the buck and avoid any blow-back for being “soft on crime.”
That’s what makes the Commissions Fall press release even more significant. The press release says: “only Congress can make the more fundamental changes needed to fix the disparities and problems the Commission has found some mandatory penalties to (reduce) federal prison populations and costs.”
What this really means is that the Commission recognizes that Congress as currently constituted is probably incapable of decisive, prison-emptying actions, but in the meantime, we at the Commission will nibble around the edges, but not enough to have you slackers in Congress veto what we doing.
Drug offenders got their reductions in 2014, and in 2015 it will be the white-collar and mandatory minimum offenders’ turn, the Commission appears to be saying. The Commission also says that one of its priorities is to “focus on fulfilling its statutory mandate to work to reduce overcapacity in federal prisons.”
The Commission noted that it received thousands of public comments, which you can believe were overwhelmingly in favor of sentence reduction. Here’s hoping the Commission follows through on this and other initiatives in the New Year. My educated guess is that they will.