Sentencing Panel To Ponder Mandatory Minimum Terms, Risk Assessments


The U.S. Sentencing Commission in the next year will ask Congress to “reduce the severity and scope of some mandatory minimum penalties and consider expanding the ‘safety valve’ statute which exempts certain low-level non-violent offenders from mandatory minimum penalties. Judge Patti Saris, chair of the panel, noted that the commission had voted unanimously to reduce the advisory guidelines on federal drug sentences, which she called “an important first step to address the continuing crisis in federal prison populations and budgets, while also making the guidelines more effective and maintaining public safety.”

The commission vowed to continue work on multi-year projects to study recidivism comprehensively, including an examination of the use of risk assessment tools in the criminal justice system. Attorney General Eric Holder has expressed concern about the racial impact of using rick assessment in sentencing. The sentencing panel confirmed that it would hear from judges, experts, victims and others on whether changes are needed in the way fraud offenses are sentenced in the federal system, particularly in fraud on the market cases.

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