Molly Gill, Govt Affairs Counsel
1100 H Street NW Suite 1000
Washington DC, 20005
FAMILIES AGAINST MANDATORY MINIMUMS
SENTENCING REFORM AND CORRECTIONS ACT OF 2015
Summary: The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015 is a bipartisan bill introduced in the U.S. Senate on October 1, 2015, by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Senators Richard Durbin (D-IL), Mike Lee (R-UT), John Cornyn (R-TX), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), and Cory Booker (D-NJ). If passed into law, the bill would reduce several federal mandatory minimum drug and gun sentences and make those reductions retroactive; make the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 retroactive; expand the federal “safety valve” exception for drug mandatory minimum sentences; and allow many federal prisoners to earn time credits for completing rehabilitative programs in prison. A version of this bill has not been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives.
THE BILL IS NOT A LAW. FAMM does not know if or when it may become a law. Every year, thousands of bills are introduced in Congress, but very few become law. To become a law, this bill must be approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee, passed by the full U.S. Senate, the full U.S. House of Representatives, and signed by the President. Keep checking here for updates on the bill’s progress.
If it becomes law, the bill would make the following reforms to federal sentencing laws:
- Reduce the mandatory life without parole sentence for a third drug or violent felony offense under 21 U.S.C. s. 841 to a mandatory minimum term of 25 years in prison (retroactive);
- Reduce the mandatory minimum 20-year sentence for a second drug or violent felony offense under 21 U.S.C. s. 841 to a mandatory minimum term of 15 years in prison (retroactive);
- Narrowly define which prior offenses can trigger longer mandatory minimum drug sentences under 21 U.S.C. s. 841 and s. 851;
- Make the Fair Sentencing Act (FSA) of 2010 retroactive, allowing approximately 6,500 crack cocaine offenders sentenced before August 3, 2010, to seek sentences in line with that law’s reforms to the 100-to-one disparity between crack and powder cocaine mandatory minimum sentences;
- Significantly expand the drug “safety valve” exception at 18 U.S.C. s. 3559(f) so that nonviolent drug offenders can receive sentences below the mandatory minimum term (not retroactive) if:
- they had 4 or fewer criminal history points, as calculated under the federal sentencing guidelines, and did not have a prior 2-point or 3-point felony conviction, OR the court determines that the person’s criminal history score substantially over-represents the seriousness of the defendant’s criminal record or the likelihood that he will commit more crimes; and
- they fulfill all other parts of the safety valve (no violence resulted; no use or possession of a gun; person pled guilty; and person was not a leader, organizer, manager, or supervisor of the offense conduct).
- Create an additional safety valve exception for drug offenders facing 10-year mandatory minimum sentences so that the person can receive the 5-year mandatory minimum prison term instead if:
- they do not have a prior conviction for a “serious drug felony” or a “serious violent felony”; and
- did not play a leadership role in the offense; and
- did not exercise substantial authority or control over the criminal activity of a criminal organization, act as an importer or exporter, high-level distributor or supplier, wholesaler, or manufacturer; and
- did not sell drugs to or with a person under age 18.
- Reduce the 15-year mandatory minimum sentence for people convicted for gun possession offenses under the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA, 18 U.S.C. s. 922(g)) to a mandatory minimum term of 10 years (retroactive);
- Reduce the 25-year mandatory minimum sentence for those who commit second or subsequent offenses of possessing guns in the course of drug trafficking offenses or crimes of violence under 18 U.S.C. s. 924(c) to a mandatory minimum term of 15 years, AND limits application of that 15-year mandatory minimum to convictions that were final prior to the commission of the new 924(c) offense (retroactive);
- Allow some categories of federal prisoners to earn time credits for completing rehabilitative programs and “cash in” those time credits at the end of their sentences for a transfer to a different type of supervision, such as a halfway house; and
- Create new mandatory minimum sentences of 10 years for interstate domestic violence resulting in a death and five years for providing certain weapons or aid to terrorists.
Factsheets and Press Releases
Current Law to be Changed:
Current Drug Safety Valve: 18 U.S.C. § 3553(f)
Current mandatory minimum drug sentences: 21 U.S.C. § 841
Current mandatory minimum gun sentences: Possession or use of a gun, 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)
Current Armed Career Criminal Act: 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)
Crack Cocaine/Fair Sentencing Act:
Life Sentences in the Federal System (U.S. Sentencing Commission, 2015)