What is the United States Sentencing Commission?
The United States Sentencing Commission is an independent agency in the judicial branch of government. Its principal purposes are:United States Sentencing Commission Rules of Practice and Procedure
(1) to establish sentencing policies and practices for the federal courts, including guidelines to be consulted regarding the appropriate form and severity of punishment for offenders convicted of federal crimes;
(2) to advise and assist Congress and the executive branch in the development of effective and efficient crime policy; and
(3) to collect, analyze, research, and distribute a broad array of information on federal crime and sentencing issues, serving as an information resource for Congress, the executive branch, the courts, criminal justice practitioners, the academic community, and the public.
An example of something that the commission works on would be the Sentencing Chart contained in Chapter 5 of the guidelines where you look at the criminal history category and the offense level and you come to a suggested range of punishment. Or the drug table in USSG 2D1.1 that uses the amount of drugs that a person is deemed responsible for to come up with a base offense level. Another example of Sentencing Commission work is apparent in the notes of the guidelines. An example of this is in USSG 1B1.13 note 1, where “extraordinary and compelling reasons” to grant a compassionate release are further defined.
The Sentencing Guidelines can be amended or changed. In order to do this you must have 4 members vote on a change in the guidelines. Many of you may remember that our office, working with Prisology, submitted thousands of letters from the prison population and your loved ones asking that the drug table in 2D1.1 be amended. The commission voted unanimously to amend these guidelines.