The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Meghan Groob, (202) 417-7547,

Reduced Sentencing Guidelines Apply Retroactively, Says Sentencing Commission


July 18 - The U.S. Sentencing Commission today approved an amendment that retroactively applies reduced sentencing guidelines to people who are currently serving time for select nonviolent drug offenses. The change will not take effect until November 1, 2015.

The sentencing reduction, which was approved by the Commission in April and did not include retroactivity, reduces the average sentence for drug traffickers by 11 months by lowering the drug sentencing guidelines by two levels. Judges are still required to determine whether a person qualifies for a retroactive reduction.

"As we continue the march toward fairness in our country's failed, racially biased sentencing policies, we can't leave behind those who had the bad luck to receive their sentences before the policies were changed," said ACLU Senior Legislative Counsel Jesselyn McCurdy, who testified before the Commission last month in favor of the amendment. "Making these new guidelines retroactive will offer relief to thousands of people who received overly harsh sentences under the old sentencing guidelines. The Sentencing Commission absolutely did the right thing today by putting the power to decide retroactivity in judges' hands."

The Commission estimates that approximately 46,000 prisoners could be eligible for a retroactive sentence reduction.

The American Civil Liberties Union was founded in 1920 and is our nation's guardian of liberty. The ACLU works in the courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to all people in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States.

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