Public Comments on Sentencing Commission's Proposed Priorities for 2018-2019 Amendment Cycle
Date:  09-04-2018

Coalition of civil rights, criminal justice reform, and human rights groups offer Sentencing Commission suggestions for improvement and fairness civil
U.S. Sentencing From The Sentencing Project:

August 10, 2018

The Honorable Judge William H. Pryor, Jr.


United States Sentencing Commission

Office of Public Affairs

One Columbus Circle, NE

Suite 2-500, South Lobby

Washington, DC, 20002-8002

Re: Public Comment on Commission’s Proposed Priorities for 2018-2019 Amendment Cycle (Document Citation: 83 FR 30477) Dear Judge Pryor:

On behalf of the undersigned coalition of civil rights, criminal justice reform, and human rights groups, we write to provide comments on the Sentencing Commission’s Proposed Priorities for 2018- 2019 Amendment Cycle published in the Federal Register on June 28, 2018.1)

These comments focus on the specific areas where we believe the Sentencing Commission (“the Commission”) can improve the fairness and proportionality of the Guidelines; promote individualized review of specific offense conduct; and mitigate excessively punitive provisions that have not only promoted racial disparities in sentencing, but have also sustained a costly explosion in the number of individuals in the federal penal system. Our comments will address Priority #1, Priority #2, Priority #3, Priority #4, riority #5, Priority #7, and Priority #9 in detail.2)

I. Priority #1: Simplifying Sentencing Guidelines while Reducing Sentencing Disparities and Accounting for Defendant’s Role, Culpability, and Relevant Conduct

Promoting proportionality is a vital consideration in light of the current state of affairs in the criminal legal system. As has been widely recognized, people of color experience discrimination at every stage of the justice system. Disparate treatment is particularly acute in drug law enforcement, which helps explain why nearly 80 percent of those in federal prison and 60 percent of those in state prisons for drug offenses are either black or Latino.3) These stark incarceration outcomes persist despite findings that people of all racial and ethnic backgrounds engage in illicit drug activities at similar rates.4) The drug war and its associated policies have been a key driver of the disproportionality and sentencing disparities that have become characteristic of the current criminal legal system. Consideration of how drug policy alterations may impact proportionality and sentencing disparities is an essential tool in addressing the inequity of the current criminal legal system. Continue reading>>>