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MONTPELIER, VERMONT: In a major victory for low level, non-violent drug offenders, the U.S. Sentencing Commission has adjusted its drug quantity penalties downward by two levels retroactively – potentially reducing prison sentences by an average of 25 months for up to 46,000 drug offenders. The sentence reductions and early releases are expected to result in a $2.4 billion savings to taxpayers.
Under the retroactive guidelines, known as Amendment 782 or the “Drugs Minus Two” amendment, offenders became eligible to apply for sentence reductions on November 1, 2014, with the first releases occurring on or after November 1, 2015.
Key to the Sentencing Commission’s unanimous approval of Amendment 782 was its receipt of over 75,000 comments favoring the reform, mostly prompted by an intensive email, letter writing and social media campaign organized by Prisology. This is the first major victory for the barely year-old nonprofit organization dedicated to criminal justice system reform.
“Prisology participated in the Commission process from the start, and gave key testimony at the June 2014 hearing supporting retroactivity. But the real credit goes to the 75,000 plus members of the general public, prisoners and their families whose words persuaded the Sentencing Commission of the rightness of this decision,” says Prisology Executive Director Brandon Sample. “Amendment 782 marks a sea change for prison reform – a first step toward restoring justice to our broken criminal justice system.”
“It’s a huge victory for fairness, for prisoners who received overly harsh punishment for minor offenses, and for their families,” says Prisology General Counsel Jeremy Gordon. “It’s also a victory for the nation, with up to 46,000 offenders allowed to return home and to begin contributing to our society and economy again. The decision also reduces overcrowding in federal prisons and could save taxpayers $2.4 billion in prison costs.
The U.S. Sentencing Commission initiated the drug guideline revision process in June 2013. “Prisology, only weeks old, sprang into action, and got thousands of support letters and emails sent, requesting an across the board reduction to the federal drug sentencing guideline table,” says Sample. Over 20,000 comments, mostly Prisology inspired, led to the Commission’s unanimous vote for Amendment 782 in April 2014.
Prisology offered testimony to the Sentencing Commission in June 2014, urging it to make the amendment retroactively applicable to drug offenders already doing time. The Prisology website alone generated over 10,000 comments supporting retroactivity, with another 45,000 letters submitted by federal prisoners, mostly at Prisology’s prompting. The U.S. Sentencing Commission unanimously approved retroactivity in July 2014.
Under Amendment 782, offenders became eligible to apply for sentence reductions on November 1, 2014, with the earliest allowable release on or after November 1, 2015. To assure public safety, all sentence reductions will be determined by the courts on a case-by-case basis.
In January 2015, the U.S. Sentencing Commission proposed new guidelines to reduce sentences for federal economic crimes, also known as white collar crime. Prisology commends the Commission for this action, and urges it to apply the reforms retroactively to the roughly 8,850 prisoners now doing time for such crimes.
The Commission has called for comments on the new proposed guidelines, and Prisology has rallied more than 10,000 of its constituents to comment in support of the changes, with a goal of 30,000 comments by the March 18th Commission deadline. The public is urged to submit comments at prisology.org/action.
“Just as with Amendment 782, the proposed economic crime amendment gives the Commission an opportunity to reduce sentences, while not adversely impacting public safety,” concludes Sample. “The changes will benefit taxpayers and allow qualified individuals to receive sentence reductions and be brought home early to their families.”
Prisology is a national nonprofit organization founded in July 2013. We are dedicated to reforming the U.S. criminal justice system through grassroots advocacy, activism, litigation and education. Prisology has offices in Texas and Vermont.
Our website is at https://www.prisology.org, where you can find video of Prisology’s U.S. Sentencing Commission Testimony, and a timeline related to Amendment 782’s passage.
Press contact: Kim Ward at [email protected]