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DOJ Announces New Unit to Prosecute “Domestic Terrorism” Cases

Last week, the Department of Justice announced a new effort to target and prosecute “domestic terrorism” cases” by establishing a new unit within its National Security Division. Since there is no specific law criminalizing “domestic terrorism,” as there is international terrorism, the new unit will likely investigate and prosecute offenders under federal laws aimed at protecting government property, prohibiting unusual weapons, interstate threats, firearm offenses, arson, and hate crimes.

Justices Sotomayor and Barrett Criticize Sentencing Commission Vacancies

Justice Sotomayor, joined by Justice Barrett, issued a statement regarding the denial of certiorari in a case addressing the circuit split over the proper definition of “controlled substance offense”under the career offender sentencing guidelines. The justices were critical of the fact that “the Sentencing Commission has not had a quorum for three full years,” highlighting the “direct and severe consequences for defendant’s sentences” absent a functioning Commission.

DOJ Issues New Rules Allowing Inmates to Earn More “Time Credits” Towards Reducing Their Sentences

In significant news to sentencing reform advocates, the Department of Justice recently announced a new rule interpreting the First Step Act’s provision on “earned time credits,” which allow inmates to earn sentence reductions by completing certain programs. Under the new rule, eligible inmates can earn up to 10 days of “time credits” for every 30 days of “successful participation in evidence-based recidivism reduction programming or productive activities.” Certain inmates are not eligible, including sex offenders, deportable inmates, and inmates with convictions for violent crimes or under 924(c).

BOP Director Carvajal Resigns

BOP Director Michael Carvajal has announced his resignation and will remain interim director until a new one is nominated. The announcement comes after a series of scandals, including an AP investigation that detailed widespread abuse and criminal conduct by BOP employees.

DOJ Reverses, Decides Inmates on Home Confinement Can Remain Free When Pandemic Ends

In a new memo issued late in December, the DOJ reversed its prior position regarding what will happen to federal inmates on home confinement when the pandemic ends. Under the DOJ’s latest guidance, the BOP will keep inmates on home confinement after the emergency period under the CARES Act ends rather than send them back to prison. Now, inmates will only be sent back “where penologically justified.”

House to Propose Bill Creating Independent Clemency Board

reported by NPR, a group of lawmakers in the House of representatives are proposing a new law that would transform the federal clemency process. Whereas clemency petitions are currently reviewed and adjudicated by the Department of Justice, the new law would create an independent clemency board for people convicted of federal crimes. The bill, known as the FIX Clemency Act, would create a 9-member board whose members are appointed by the President.

DOJ Launches “Expansive” Criminal Investigation of Short Sellers

ast week, media outlets reported that the Department of Justice has launched “an expansive criminal investigation into short selling by hedge funds and research firms.” Among other things, the government is studying the relationships between hedge funds and the sources that publish reports that affect how a company’s stock price is performing. In other words, the government is scrutinizing whether firms that publish negative reports on certain companies are colluding with hedge funds that are shorting those companies’ stocks, and investigators are also looking into potential insider trading and other abuses.

SCOTUS Denies Certiorari, Leaves Circuit Split Intact Regarding Standard for Compassionate Release

Earlier this week, SCOTUS denied certiorari in Bryant v. U.S. In Bryant, the Eleventh Circuit created a circuit split by holding district courts considering motions for compassionate release or sentence reductions are bound by the narrow criteria under USSG 1B1.13. As a result of the Supreme Court’s decision, inmates will continue facing dramatically different, and more difficult, standards based on where they were convicted.

Biden Nominate 11 Federal Judges in November

President Biden nominated 11 candidates for the federal judiciary in November, including 3 new circuit court judges and 8 district court judges. to date, the majority of President Biden’s nominees have been women, almost a third have been black, and his picks have included several civil rights lawyers, public defenders, and labor lawyers.

OIG Report Criticizes BOP’s “Failure” to Implement First Step Act

The Office of Inspector General issued a report recently finding that the BOP had failed to implement substantial provisions of the First Step Act. Perhaps most critically, the BOP has yet to finalize its programming available to inmates who seek “earned-time credits.” The First Step Act mandated that BOP would create evidence-based recidivism reduction programs and make them available to inmates who could use credits from these programs to earn an earlier release from prison. The report found that 60,000 inmates have been deprived. of earned time credits despite completing their programming. The OIG report comes just as the Associated Press published an article regarding the BOP’s recent fraud, abuse, and criminal scandals, and calls for the director to be replaced.

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