The United States Sentencing Commission has drawn much criticism over the years. Stakeholders have impugned the institutional structure of the Commission and the operation of the Guidelines, and they’ve even attacked the Commissioners themselves. While many of the criticisms are undoubtedly due, the current Commission has advanced a series of noteworthy reform initiatives aimed at reducing sentences. The most visible is the Commission’s recent proposed amendment that would lessen drug trafficking sentences across the board, but there are others. Because of the Commission’s efforts, which have led and capitalized on the reform movement, federal sentencing is on the cusp of becoming less punitive, less costly, and much less flawed than it has been in over a generation. In this essay, I briefly catalog the Commission’s recent efforts to reduce sentences, and explain how it has used nimble strategy to advance reform consistent with the agency’s values but also in a way most likely to succeed. I then offer some insights into why the Commission is now asserting itself more strongly as to sentencing reform than it has in the past, a welcome trend that I hope continues.

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