Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Senate Sentence Relief Bill Advances Closer to Passage

Newest Draft of Senate Bill 2123 Amended in Committee, Advances


by Derek Gilna


            Many of you have been inquiring whether the facts of your case would qualify you for relief under the new Senate or House bills. Of course, as I have told many of you individually,  there are many hurdles to clear before these bills become law, so it is important to not focus too much on the current language in the proposed legislation.  That having been said, a few changes were made in committee this past week that at least gives us some clues as to what the final bill will look like.

            First, there has been more emphasis regarding extra good time for programming in this version, with 5 extra days given for 30 days of successful programming.  People currently incarcerated for some narrowly defined violent crimes, and with more than a 15 year sentence for fraud or other white collar offenders are excluded. The RDAP program is mandated to ensure that everyone eligible can enter the program early enough to get the full year of credit. The BOP has a time limit to put together a plan for these programs and is subject to annual reviews by Congress to check its progress, because I suspect  Congress is aware of past BOP failures on RDAP and other sentence-reducing programs. For the first time, the BOP will have to do risk assessments to determine offenders' suitability for early release.

            Secondly, compassionate release requirements are now spelled out in the statute, rather than merely left to BOP rule-making.  Obviously, Congress doesn't trust the BOP to properly implement this program either.

            Finally, there are some significant reductions for drug offenders. Crimes that had MMs of 20 years are now 15 years; it is possible to petition under 3553a for retroactive relief. In the case of a non-violent drug offense previously calling for a 10-year MM, that is reduced to 5. People who received no relief under the Fair Sentencing Act can now petition the court for relief. Additionally, for the first time, it appears that  3552a petitioner must be brought to court and have an opportunity to present his case.


Federal Legal Center, Inc.

Derek A. Gilna, Director

113 McHenry, #173

Buffalo Grove, IL  60089