Reduced Sentencing Guidelines Apply Retroactively, Says Sentencing Commission

July 18, 2014 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – The U.S. Sentencing Commission today approved an amendment that retroactively applies reduced sentencing guidelines to people who are currently serving time for select nonviolent drug offenses. The change will not take effect until November 1, 2015.

The sentencing reduction, which was approved by the Commission in April and did not include retroactivity, reduces the average sentence for drug traffickers by 25 months by lowering the drug sentencing guidelines by two levels. Judges are still required to determine whether a person qualifies for a retroactive reduction.

“As we continue the march toward fairness in our country’s failed, racially biased sentencing policies, we can’t leave behind those who had the bad luck to receive their sentences before the policies were changed,” said ACLU Senior Legislative Counsel Jesselyn McCurdy, who testified before the Commission last month in favor of the amendment. “Making these new guidelines retroactive will offer relief to thousands of people who received overly harsh sentences under the old sentencing guidelines. The Sentencing Commission absolutely did the right thing today by putting the power to decide retroactivity in judges’ hands.”

The Commission estimates that approximately 46,000 prisoners could be eligible for a retroactive sentence reduction.

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