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Judiciary Supports Sentencing Amendment Retroactivity with Delayed Implementation, Training

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The federal judiciary, which administers the federal probation system, supports retroactive application of a proposed amendment to the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines that would lower penalties for most drug offenses, provided that:

  1. The Courts are authorized to begin accepting and granting petitions on November 1, 2014;
  2. Any inmate who is granted a sentence reduction will not be eligible for release until May 1, 2015; and
  3. The Sentencing Commission helps coordinate a national training program that facilitates the development of procedures that conserve scarce resources and promote public safety.
Judge Irene Keeley, chair of the Criminal Law Committee of the Judicial Conference, testifies before the U.S. Sentencing Commission.

Judge Irene Keeley, chair of the Criminal Law Committee of the Judicial Conference, expressed concern about the impact the added workload would have on public safety, if the proposed amendment is approved. In the past ten years, probation staffing declined five percent, while the post-conviction supervision caseload rose 19 percent.“The driving factor for the Committee’s decision was fundamental fairness,” Judge Keeley said in testimony today before the U.S. Sentencing Commission. “We do not believe that the date a sentence was imposed should dictate the length of imprisonment; rather it should be the defendant’s conduct and characteristics that drive the sentence whenever possible.”

“The release of thousands of additional offenders to supervision when the system is already dealing with diminished resources and an increasingly risky offender population raises several public safety concerns,” Judge Keely said.

“We believe that the delay in the effective date that we have recommended will help the courts and probation offices manage the surge in workload while we try to secure additional resources,” she told the Commission. “We also are confident in the ability of judges to discern suitable candidates for sentence reductions, and that through close coordination between staff in the judiciary and in the Executive branch this important amendment can be implemented effectively without putting public safety at risk.”

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