This month, a group of current and former prosecutors and law enforcement officials issued a “Joint Statement on Sentencing Chances and Addressing Past Extreme Sentences.” The group recognized that many incarcerated individuals are serving lengthy sentences despite posing no public safety risk, and called on elected officials, judges, and other policymakers to expand the opportunities available to inmates and reduce “our nation’s bloated prison populations.”
Specifically, the group called for more opportunities for inmates to have their sentences reduced, including by filing motions with judges. The group specifically referenced “compassionate release,” a reform instituted under the First Step Act of 2018 that allows federal inmates to seek sentence reductions. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, thousands of inmates have been released via “compassionate release” based on their risk of contracting a severe illness from the coronavirus.
The group describes the evidence-based support for reducing prison sentences, but just as importantly, it calls for a “proactive approach to future sentencing,” including by “limiting the use of mandatory minimum or other excessive sentencing enhancements.” The group called for enforcement mechanisms such as internal policies requiring prosecutors to get supervisory approval for certain mandatory minimums.
The group laid out four pillars for reform: vehicles for sentencing review, creating sentencing review units and processes, expanded use of compassionate release, and high level approach for prosecutors recommending decades-long sentences.
Click here to read the Joint Statement.