The commission that advises the federal judiciary on criminal justice changes has been inactive for at least three years, the Wall Street Journal reports.
The seven-member body has only one confirmed member, meaning it has been unable to function for at least three years, the Journal noted in a March 16 story.
“Science and evidence has come forward suggesting that lengthy sentences do not necessarily result in community safety;” said Charles Breyer, a federal District Court judge who is the acting chair and lone member of the commission.
Since passing the First Step Act in 2018, many individuals have been released from prisons due to the overhaul in sentencing rules and to ease mandatory-minimum sentences.
Federal courts are dealing with pressing issues like eligibility for compassion release from prison, excessively long sentences, defendants receiving wildly different sentences for the same offences, and others that warrant early release, the newspaper noted.
The commissioners also analyze sentencing policies and draft proposals for legislative changes. All federally charged persons’ lives are shaped, and or determined, by this commission, said Law Professor Douglas Berman, Ohio State University.
For example, in 2014, the commission was vital in the lowering of crack cocaine sentences. In 2014, it favored guidelines that reduced the sentences of over 30,000 persons. This reduction holds as one of the largest in recent times, the Journal reported.
The panel has written sentencing guidelines for all major crimes within the criminal code to deter the disproportionate sentences handed out to defendants in federal criminal cases.
President Joe Biden has the greatest opportunity to appoint a new commission with political support for less harsh sentencing laws on the federal level, the story said.
Judge Breyer said he hopes that a new commission will be able to review the federal guidelines so that lower courts are not split on how to apply the laws.