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June 20 -- As part of its statutory authority and responsibility to analyze sentencing issues, including operation of the federal sentencing guidelines, and in accordance with its Rules of Practice and Procedure, the United States Sentencing Commission is seeking comment on possible policy priorities for the amendment cycle ending May 1, 2024. Public comment should be received by the Commission on or before August 1, 2023.

The United States Sentencing Commission is an independent agency in the judicial branch of the United States Government. The Commission promulgates sentencing guidelines and policy statements for federal courts pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 994(a). The Commission also periodically reviews and revises previously promulgated guidelines pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 994(o) and submits guideline amendments to the Congress not later than the first day of May each year pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 994(p).

The Commission provides this notice identifying the possible policy priorities that the Commission expects to focus on during the amendment cycle ending May 1, 2024. While continuing to address legislation or other matters requiring more immediate action, the Commission has decided to limit its consideration of specific guidelines amendments for this amendment cycle. Instead, in light of the 40th anniversary of the Sentencing Reform Act, the Commission anticipates undertaking a number of projects examining the degree to which current sentencing, penal, and correctional practices are effective in meeting the purposes of sentencing as set forth in the Sentencing Reform Act. See 28 U.S.C. 991(b)(2). The Commission expects to continue work on many of these priorities beyond the upcoming amendment cycle. The Commission invites comment on the proposed priorities set forth below, along with any additional priorities commenters believe the Commission should consider in the upcoming amendment cycle and beyond.

Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 994(g), the Commission intends to consider the issue of reducing costs of incarceration and overcapacity of prisons, to the extent it is relevant to any identified priority.

The proposed priorities for the amendment cycle ending May 1, 2024, are as follows:

(1) Assessing the degree to which certain practices of the Bureau of Prisons are effective in meeting the purposes of sentencing as set forth in 18 U.S.C. 3553(a)(2) and considering any appropriate responses including possible consideration of recommendations or amendments.

(2) Promotion of court-sponsored diversion and alternatives-to-incarceration programs by expanding the availability of information and organic documents pertaining to existing programs (e.g., Pretrial Opportunity Program, Conviction And Sentence Alternatives (CASA) Program, Special Options Services (SOS) Program) through the Commission's website and possible workshops and seminars sharing best practices for developing, implementing, and assessing such programs.

(3) Examination of the Guidelines Manual, including exploration of ways to simplify the guidelines and possible consideration of amendments that might be appropriate.

(4) Continuation of its multiyear study of the Guidelines Manual to address case law concerning the validity and enforceability of guideline commentary.

(5) Continued examination of the career offender guidelines, including (A) updating the data analyses and statutory recommendations set forth in the Commission's 2016 report to Congress, titled Career Offender Sentencing Enhancements; (B) devising and conducting workshops to discuss the scope and impact of the career offender guidelines, including discussion of possible alternative approaches to the “categorical approach” in determining whether an offense is a “crime of violence” or a “controlled substance offense”; and (C) possible consideration of amendments that might be appropriate.

(6) Examination of the treatment of youthful offenders under the Guidelines Manual, including possible consideration of amendments that might be appropriate.

(7) Implementation of any legislation warranting Commission action.

(8) Resolution of circuit conflicts as warranted, pursuant to the Commission's authority under 28 U.S.C. 991(b)(1)(B) and Braxton v. United States, 500 U.S. 344 (1991).

(9) Consideration of other miscellaneous issues coming to the Commission's attention.

(10) Further examination of federal sentencing practices on a variety of issues, possibly including: (A) the prevalence and nature of drug trafficking offenses involving methamphetamine; (B) drug trafficking offenses resulting in death or serious bodily injury; (C) comparison of sentences imposed in cases disposed of through trial versus plea; (D) continuation of the Commission's studies regarding recidivism; and (E) other areas of federal sentencing in need of additional research.

(11) Additional issues identified during the comment period.

USSC: https://www.ussc.gov/
FRN: https://www.federalregister.gov/d/2023-12991

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