Durbin Meets With U.S. Sentencing Commission On Implementing Provisions in First Step Act Into Sentencing Guidelines

WASHINGTON  U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today met with the U.S. Sentencing Commission to discuss policy priorities for the upcoming sentencing guideline amendment cycle, including implementing provisions from Durbin’s bipartisan First Step Act

During their meeting, Durbin encouraged the Commission to update the guidelines to reflect the First Step Act’s expanded eligibility for “safety valve” relief from mandatory minimum sentences for certain types of drug offenses as long as the defendant satisfies necessary criteria.

Durbin also advocated for the Commission to ensure that the “extraordinary and compelling reasons” required to receive compassionate release are defined broadly enough to include post-sentencingchanges to the law. Durbin noted that the First Step Act significantly reduced the mandatory minimums for certain offenses, and that courts should have the discretion to consider these changes as “extraordinary and compelling reasons” justifying a reduction in sentence for a previously-sentenced defendant who meets the remaining criteria for compassionate release.

“The First Step Act was a landmark piece of criminal justice reform legislation aimed at making our justice system fairer and providing opportunities to those who are incarcerated to re-enter society successfully. As the U.S. Sentencing Commission is tasked with establishing practices and policies to promote proportionality in sentencing and reduce sentencing disparities, I encouraged the Commissioners to take provisions from the First Step Act into account while they consider sentencing guideline amendments that will forever impact the lives of many facing the criminal justice system,” said Durbin.

The U.S. Sentencing Commission is a bipartisan, independent agency within the federal judiciary that was created to establish policies and practices to reduce sentencing disparities and promote transparency and proportionality in criminal sentencing. To accomplish this, the U.S. Sentencing Commissioncollects and analyzes information on federal sentencing practices to help develop fairer and more effective criminal justice policies.

The Commission had not had a quorum since 2019, preventing the Commission from responding to important developments in sentencing law, including the enactment of the landmark First Step Act of 2018. Now that Chair Durbin worked to fill the vacancies, the Commission is considering new amendments to the sentencing guidelines that will be delivered to Congress in May 2023.