Criminal Justice

ABA and DOJ seek retroactive application of new federal drug-sentencing guidelines

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The Department of Justice on Tuesday formally announced that it would support a plan to reduce sentences for drug offenders who have not been involved in violent crimes.

The DOJ is backing those who have suggested applying retroactively new reduced sentencing guidelines for drug trafficking to those who are already imprisoned, according to a Department of Justice press release and Time magazine. The U.S. Sentencing Commission is scheduled to vote next month on whether to approve retroactive application of the new guidelines.

“Not everyone in prison for a drug-related offense would be eligible,” said Attorney General Eric Holder. “Nor would everyone who is eligible be guaranteed a reduced sentence. But this proposal strikes the best balance between protecting public safety and addressing the overcrowding of our prison system that has been exacerbated by unnecessarily long sentences.”

Meanwhile, in testimony (PDF) before the U.S. Sentencing Commission on Tuesday, an American Bar Association representative urged the commission to adopt the plan.

James Felman called retroactive application a “moral imperative,” and said the plan would eliminate both “unnecessarily severe” sentences required by prior quantity-based guidelines and a wasteful use of prison resources on those who don’t need further punishment.

Felman serves as the ABA’s liaison to the sentencing commission and is chair-elect of the ABA Section of Criminal Justice.

Additional and related coverage: “Obama seeks low-level offenders for possible clemency” “Massive volunteer effort will help with Obama clemency proposal”

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