December 11, 2020

Sentencing, Corrections, and Re-Entry Reforms

The ABA supports sentences that are fair, consistent among persons convicted of the same offense, and adequately tailored to the facts of the case. To that end, the ABA opposes the use of mandatory minimum sentencing that denies judges the discretion to ensure that a particular sentence fits the crime without producing unjust results.

For those incarcerated, the ABA supports appropriate treatment consistent with the 8th Amendment that offers resources and opportunities that have been shown to reduce recidivism, increase public safety, and help that person be a productive member of the community. Similarly, upon release from incarceration, the ABA supports adequate resources for programs that help individuals make successful transitions back into society.

Example Legislation

The Second Look Act, H.R. 3795, Rep. Bass (D CA); and S. 2146, Sen. Booker (D NJ), which would set period of time at which persons with lengthy sentences would eventually become eligible to have their sentence reviewed.

The Next Step Act of 2019, H.R. 1893, Rep. Watson Coleman (D NJ); S. 697, Sen. Booker (D NJ), which would provide a comprehensive package of proposed reforms to corrections and sentencing laws.

The Effective Assistance of Counsel in the Digital Era Act, H.R. 5546, Rep. Jeffries (D NY), which would extend the attorney-client privilege that applies to other forms of prisoner-lawyer communications to electronic messages.

EQUAL Defense Act, S. 1377, Sen. Harris (D CA); H.R. 2868, Rep. Deutch (D FL), which would provide comprehensive support to the nation’s indigent defense systems.

The Correctional Facility Emergency Response Act of 2020, H.R. 6414Rep. Nadler (D NY), which would provide emergency relief to the nation’s prisons and jails in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Technical Corrections to the Elderly Offender Home Detention Pilot Program, H.R. 4018which would ensure that those incarcerated receive credit for “good time” awarded when calculating when they become eligible for transfer to supervised home detention.

The FAMILES Act, H.R. 8774, Rep. Jayapal (D WA); S. 4916, Sen. Wyden (D OR), which would provide courts with the authority to divert cases where the defendant is a parent and primary caregiver to minor children to a non-carceral setting to keep the family together.

The REAL Act, S. 1074, Sen. Schatz (D HI), which would restore access to Pell Grant funding for persons behind bars.

ABA Advocacy

ABA Letter to the House Judiciary Committee Supporting H.R. 6414, the Correctional Facility Emergency Response Act of 2020

On Tuesday, April 7, 2020, ABA President Judy Perry Martinez sent a letter to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Nadler thanking him for the introduction of H.R. 6414, the COVID-19 Correctional Facility Emergency Response Act of 2020. The bill, if enacted, would reduce prison overcrowding and increase public safety by establishing the Pandemic Jail and Prison Emergency Response grant program. The program would offer funding to states to promote the use of risk-based citation and release for persons accused of crimes and urge the early release of prisoners who present no risk to public safety who are at significant risk of experiencing severe cases of COVID-19. Read more...

ABA Support for H.R. 2868, the Ensuring Quality Access to Legal (EQUAL) Defense Act

On February 27, ABA President Judy Perry Martinez commended Senator Kamala Harris and Representative Ted Deutch for their introduction of the Ensuring Quality Access to Legal (EQUAL) Defense Act in each chamber of Congress (S.1377 and H.R. 2868, respectively). The EQUAL Defense Act would help protect the constitutional rights of defendants who are unable to afford a lawyer, increase indigent defense representation in local and tribal public defense systems, and provide needed relief to the men and women providing public defense services every day. Citing to the ABA Ten Principles of a Public Defense Delivery System, President Martinez emphasized that for the criminal justice system to be fair, public defense lawyers should be resourced on a par with prosecution counterparts. Read more...

ABA Letter of Support for the Effective Assistance of Counsel in the Digital Era Act

One January 7, 2020, the ABA sent a letter to the House applauding Representatives Jeffries and Collins for their support for Effective Assistance of Counsel in the Digital Era. The attorney-client privilege is fundamental to our system of justice and critical to the work of lawyers who rely on confidential communications with their clients to represent their clients’ interests in legal proceedings and to insure fairness in the federal criminal justice system. Read more...

ABA Letter Supporting a Technical Corrections Bill for the Elderly Offender Home Detention Pilot Program

On October 8, 2019, ABA President Judy Perry Martinez wrote to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, urging their support for H.R. 4018—a bipartisan technical corrections bill concerning the Elderly Offender Home Detention Pilot Program. The pilot program had been reauthorized under the First Step Act (P.L. 115-391), offering to model nonviolent elderly and terminally ill inmates an opportunity to serve the remainder of their sentence on home detention. If enacted, H.R. 4018 would ensure that when calculating whether a person has served a sufficient portion of their sentence to become eligible for the pilot program that the Bureau reduces the length of the original sentence imposed by the “good time” credits the person had been awarded while behind bars. Read more...

ABA Letter on PATTERN Risk and Needs Assessment Tool

On August 26, 2019, ABA President Judy Perry Martinez wrote to the Department of Justice in response to its release of a new risk and needs assessment tool for prisoners “PATTERN” as required under the First Step Act. President Martinez applauded some aspect of the tool but raised numerous questions and flagged potential problems requiring clarification or correction. Read more...

ABA Letter in Support of the Restoring Education and Learning ("REAL") Act

On April 1, 2019 ABA President Robert M. Carlson sent a letter to Senator Brian Schatz expressing the ABA's appreciation for his leadership in introducing the Restoring Education and Learning (“REAL”) Act. The bill would restore Pell Grant eligibility for those seeking to improve their lives through education while in prison, a move the ABA believes will decrease recidivism and increase ex-offender employability. Read more...