Sentencing Reform and Its Critics

Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole announced on Wednesday, April 24, 2014, that the department would consider recommending clemency for nonviolent felons who have served at least 10 years in prison and who would have received significantly lower prison terms if convicted under today’s more lenient sentencing laws.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder has urged that the sentencing system be overhauled. In 2010, Congress unanimously voted to reduce the 100-to-1 disparity between sentences for crack cocaine offenses and those for powdered cocaine.

The movement for sentencing reform has drawn support from former judges, prosecutors and law enforcement officials, including many members of NAFUSA. See, for instance, Letter re Smarter Sentencing Act 12-9-13, a letter to Senators Richard Durbin and Michael Lee in support for their bill to reform federal sentencing contained in the Smarter Sentencing Act.

But the movement for reform has not been without its critics, including the National Association of Assistant United States Attorneys (NAAUSA), the National Narcotics Officers Association’ Coalition, the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association and other law enforcement groups. NAAUSA has been circulating a proposed letter, the ReidMcConnellLetter-NAAUSASignOn, to Senators Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell, opposing the Smarter Sentencing Act, which has been signed by a number of NAFUSA members.