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News Release

U.S. Sentencing Commission
One Columbus Circle NE
Washington, DC 20002-8002

For Immediate Release
January 13, 2009
Contact: Michael Courlander
Public Affairs Officer
(202) 502-4597

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive

United States Sentencing Commission to Conduct Regional Public Hearings on Federal Sentencing Policy

Series of Hearings Coincide with 25th Anniversary of Sentencing Reform Act

WASHINGTON, D.C. (January 13, 2009) -- The United States Sentencing Commission announced today that it will be conducting a series of regional public hearings on federal sentencing policy. The Commission is holding these public hearings to gather feedback on federal sentencing practices and the operation of the federal sentencing guidelines.

The regional hearings coincide with the 25th anniversary of the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984 ("SRA"). The SRA established the Commission as an independent agency in the judicial branch of government and directed it to establish sentencing policies and practices for the federal criminal justice system, principally through the promulgation of federal sentencing guidelines.

After holding a series of regional public hearings in 1986, publishing two drafts of sentencing guidelines for public comment, and receiving more than 1,000 letters and position papers from individuals and groups, the Commission submitted the initial set of sentencing guidelines to Congress in April 1987.

After the requisite period of congressional review, the guidelines became effective on November 1, 1987. Since 1987, the guidelines have been amended more than 700 times and they have been used by federal courts to sentence more than one million defendants.

As directed by the SRA, the sentencing guidelines are designed to --

* incorporate the purposes of sentencing (i.e., just punishment, deterrence, incapacitation, and rehabilitation);

* provide certainty and fairness in meeting the purposes of sentencing by avoiding unwarranted disparity among offenders with similar characteristics convicted of similar criminal conduct, while permitting sufficient judicial flexibility to take in account relevant aggravating and mitigating factors; and

* reflect, to the extent practicable, advancement in the knowledge of human behavior as it relates to the criminal justice process.

At the hearings, the Commission expects to hear from a wide range of witnesses from across the nation, including the judiciary, law enforcement, prosecutors, defense attorneys, community interest groups, sentencing experts, and others interested in federal sentencing. The Commission is interested in any suggestions regarding changes to the Sentencing Reform Act and other relevant statutes, the federal sentencing guidelines and policy statements, and the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure that, in the view of the witness, will further the statutory purposes of sentencing.

The first public hearing in this series is scheduled to be held in Atlanta, Georgia, February 10-11, 2009. A schedule for subsequent, regional public hearings across the country will be forthcoming from the Commission. Additional information about the regional public hearings will be posted on the Commission's website at

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