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The Spodek Law Group understands how delicate high-profile cases can be, and has a strong track record of getting positive outcomes. Our lawyers service a clientele that is nationwide. With offices in both LA and NYC, and cases all across the country - Spodek Law Group is a top tier law firm.

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Amendment 821 Sentencing Lawyers

By Spodek Law Group | October 11, 2023
(Last Updated On: October 11, 2023)

Last Updated on: 11th October 2023, 12:09 am

Amendment 821 Sentencing – A Conversation on Reform

Amendment 821 is a big deal for federal sentencing reform. This amendment, passed by the U.S. Sentencing Commission in 2023, makes some common-sense changes to how criminal history points are calculated under the sentencing guidelines. For folks facing federal charges or already serving federal time, it could mean big reductions in their sentences.Let’s break down what Amendment 821 does and why it matters. I’m no legal expert, just an average Joe trying to understand this stuff. So I’ll explain it in simple terms without all the lawyer jargon.

What Exactly Does Amendment 821 Change?

There’s two main parts to Amendment 821:

1. Getting Rid of “Status Points”

Before this amendment, you could get extra criminal history points added just for being on probation, parole, or supervised release when your offense happened. They call those “status points.”The idea was to punish repeat offenders more harshly. But research found those extra points don’t really predict whether someone will re-offend. They just make sentences longer for no good reason.So Amendment 821 eliminates status points. This especially helps folks at the lower end of the criminal history spectrum avoid inflated sentences.

2. Adding a Reduction for “Zero-Point Offenders”

The amendment also creates a new 2-level reduction for defendants with zero criminal history points whose crime wasn’t violent or too serious. The goal is to distinguish true first-time offenders from career criminals.Adding this reduction prevents low-level drug crimes and non-violent offenses from being punished too harshly.

Why Make These Changes Retroactive?

Normally when the sentencing commission changes the guidelines, it only applies to future cases. But Amendment 821 was made “retroactive” – meaning it can also reduce sentences already handed down.There’s a few good reasons for this:

  • Research shows status points are poor predictors of re-offending. So it makes sense to revisit old sentences inflated by these pointless extras.
  • The justice system should avoid excessive punishment. If we now realize the guidelines were too harsh for certain offenders, those errors should be corrected.
  • Retroactivity offers hope and redemption to inmates who’ve worked hard to better themselves in prison. They deserve a second chance.
  • It brings sentences more in line with today’s evolving standards of fairness and proportionality.
  • Reducing prison overcrowding and costs is a bonus.

How Retroactive Sentence Reductions Will Work

The retroactive part of Amendment 821 doesn’t kick in until February 1, 2024. That gives the system time to prepare.Here’s the process inmates will go through:

  • The Bureau of Prisons will identify eligible inmates based on their criminal history points.
  • Inmates have to file a motion with their sentencing judge requesting a reduction.
  • The judge can hold a hearing to consider factors like behavior in prison and risk to public safety.
  • If the judge grants a reduction, they issue a new order with the lower sentence.

Inmates will have to show how they’ve bettered themselves in prison and plan to continue that progress after release. Documenting rehabilitation efforts is key.

Weighing the Debate Around Retroactivity

Allowing sentence reductions under Amendment 821 has been controversial. Some of the key arguments on both sides are:Supporting Retroactivity:

  • Brings sentences in line with more just, evidence-based policy.
  • Corrects inflated punishments from flawed guidelines.
  • Incentivizes rehabilitation by offering hope.
  • Saves taxpayer money on unnecessary incarceration.
  • Helps ease prison overcrowding.

Opposing Retroactivity:

  • Could undermine deterrence and public safety.
  • Causes logistical challenges for courts and prisons.
  • May be unfair to victims of crimes.
  • Early releases could lead to some re-offending.
  • Public may perceive it as being soft on criminals.

There are good faith reasons on both sides. But most criminal justice experts seem to agree the benefits outweigh the risks.

What This Change Means for Inmates and Their Families

For inmates eligible under the new scoring rules, Amendment 821 offers real hope of getting out months or years early. Groups like Families Against Mandatory Minimums say it will help restore fairness and trust in the system.The average reduction is estimated to be around 15 months. That’s huge, especially for inmates nearing the end of excessive sentences.Of course it’s not a guarantee – inmates will have to petition the courts. And judges still have discretion to consider public safety risks.But this change gives many families hope of welcoming home their loved ones sooner.

Looking Ahead to Further Reforms

While Amendment 821 is a step forward, our criminal justice system still needs more reforms:

  • Alternatives to incarceration for low-level offenders
  • Increased rehabilitation and vocational programs for inmates
  • Removing barriers to re-entry and employment
  • Re-evaluating mandatory minimums and sentencing disparities

The goal is a system that hands down fair and proportional sentences – not one-size-fits-all punishments. Amendment 821 moves us in the right direction, but there’s more work to do.I hope this breakdown helps explain Amendment 821 sentencing changes and what they could mean for federal inmates and their families. Let me know if you have any other questions! Wishing the best to all those impacted.

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