It’s Time to Fix Our Sentencing Laws

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Years after the Supreme Court Put the Ball in Congress’s Court,the Sentencing Commission Can Finally Spur Action

The US Sentencing Commission is confronting a challenge to its own existence. Critics of the Commission’s budget and inaction on sentencing reform have begun to call for massive cutbacks and even full elimination of the Commission. Yet unlike other agencies that face similar crises, the Commission has the power to propose reforms to justify and strengthen its role.

For more than six years—since the US Supreme Court invalidated parts of the federal law governing sentencing policy in Booker v. United States—courts have increasingly disregarded the federal sentencing guidelines. At the same time, racial disparities have increased. The Supreme Court called for policymakers to respond, stating “The ball now lies in Congress’s court.” But over a half decade later, neither Congress nor the Commission has acted.

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