WASHINGTON – The American Federation of Government Employees and its Council of Prison Locals today commended the U.S. Sentencing Commission for voting to reduce the sentencing guideline levels applicable to most federal drug trafficking offenders.
“Our federal prisons are overcrowded and understaffed – a dangerous combination that puts our corrections officers and prison staff in jeopardy every day they go to work,” AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. said. “Reducing the lengthy sentences given to those convicted of non-violent drug offenses will lessen overcrowding significantly, improving safety not only for prison employees but for the inmates as well.”
AFGE’s Council of Prison Locals represents more than 37,000 Bureau of Prisons corrections officers and staff. AFGE and CPL have been advocating for reducing the sentences of non-violent drug offenders as a way of easing the explosive growth in the BOP prison inmate population.
The number of inmates incarcerated in federal prisons has increased by 50 percent since 2000 and nearly 900 percent since 1980 – a direct result of Congress approving stricter anti-drug enforcement laws involving mandatory minimum sentences in the 1980s.
“This modest reduction in drug sentences is a good first step in helping to reduce the explosive growth in our prison population and will provide some much-needed relief to our correctional officers and prison staff,” Council of Prison Locals President Eric Young said.
The change, approved unanimously by the U.S. Sentencing Commission, would amend sentencing guidelines for drug offenses by a level of two. For example, under the current guidelines, a first-time drug offense involving at least 10 grams of methamphetamine, but not more than 20, is a level 18 offense, which carries a recommended sentence of 27-33 months. The new guidelines would make that a level 16 offense, which carries a recommended sentence of 21-27 months.
AFGE and CPL will continue to work with the Justice Department and Congress on additional reforms that will improve the safety and security of prison staff and inmates. For instance, the union continues to advocate for passage of the Smarter Sentencing Act of 2013 (S 1410 in the Senate and HR 3382 in the House), which would make long-overdue changes to mandatory minimum sentences.