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August 21, 2018

Sentencing Guidelines

The ABA urged the U.S. Sentencing Commission Aug. 7 to include, in its 2019 priorities, proposals to address the impact of mandatory minimum sentences and to study whether current guidelines effectively encourage the use of compassionate release when “extraordinary and compelling reasons” exist. In comments submitted to the Sentencing Commission’s acting chair, William H. Pryor Jr., ABA Governmental Affairs Director Thomas M. Susman emphasized the ABA’s “lengthy and robust opposition to mandatory minimum sentences dating back 50 years.” ABA policy adopted in 2017 reinforced the ABA’s position, pointing out that such sentences, according to the report accompanying the policy, are “detrimental to society because they lead to excessive sentences, result in sentencing disparities, undermine the discretion of the judiciary, and punish minority defendants disproportionately.” Susman also outlined the ABA’s longstanding support for development of standards for reduction or modification of sentences based on exceptional circumstances, including but not limited to old age, disability, changes in the law, exigent family circumstances, heroic acts, or extraordinary suffering. The association also urged the commission to promulgate policy guidance for sentencing courts and the Bureau of Prisons to use when considering reduction of sentences.