September 29, 2022
NEW COMMISSION PROPOSES POLICY PRIORITIES
FOR 2022-2023 AMENDMENT YEAR
First Step Act Implementation Among Top Tentative Priorities
WASHINGTON, D.C.― The newly constituted United States Sentencing Commission today issued tentative policy priorities for the 2022-2023 amendment year—with top focus on implementation of the First Step Act of 2018.
The Commission lost a voting quorum shortly after enactment of the First Step Act, preventing the Commission from amending the federal sentencing guidelines.
The First Step Act, which authorized defendants to file motions in federal court, helped facilitate a substantial increase in compassionate release filings during the COVID-19 pandemic but the Commission recently reported wide variation in grant rates among the federal courts (more here).
The Commission also proposed a focus on implementation of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act of 2022 relating to firearms penalties under §2K2.1, one of the most common sentencing guidelines applied annually. The act created new penalties for straw purchasers and increased penalties for other firearms offenses.
In addition, the Commission proposed consideration of several circuit court conflicts that have emerged since the loss of a quorum. Commissioners also identified as a priority further examination of the guidelines relating to criminal history in light of the agency’s studies on recidivism and complications in the application of the career offender provision.
U.S. District Judge Carlton W. Reeves, Chair of the Commission remarked, “This amendment cycle is a particularly exciting and challenging one for the Commission. It will require swift consensus-building among my colleagues and thoughtful feedback from all our stakeholders.”
The Commission’s amendment cycle typically begins in June and ends the following April (more here). The recently confirmed Commissioners will work on an expedited timetable to finalize priorities in October and adopt amendments by May 1, 2023.
Reeves stated, “We know much is expected of this new Commission beyond these immediate priorities, and we are eager to start laying that groundwork. We will operate in a deliberative, empirically-based, and inclusive manner—open to voices from all parts of our federal criminal justice system—judges, Congress, the Department of Justice, the Federal Public Defenders, probation officers, victims, important advocacy groups, and the public at large.”
A complete list of proposed priorities and comment submission instructions can be found here. Public comment will be accepted through October 17, 2022.
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The United States Sentencing Commission, an independent agency in the judicial branch of the federal government, was organized in 1985 to develop a national sentencing policy for the federal courts. The resulting sentencing guidelines provide structure for the courts’ sentencing discretion to help ensure that similar offenders who commit similar offenses receive similar sentences.