Freshly stocked with members, the Sentencing Commission has the opportunity to push federal sentencing in the right direction. The Commission should press Congress to abolish mandatory minimum sentencing laws. Such provisions prevent judges from imposing individualized sentences, transfer authority from neutral judges to partisan prosecutors, and generate racial and economic disparities, with no particular crime control benefits. While bipartisan support for sentencing reform appears to be growing, “law enforcement lobby” (comprised of prosecutors, prison guards, and police unions) poses a substantial obstacle to significant change. Prosecutors often resist changes that would reduce their bargaining power and corrections officials and others with a stake in prison expansion often support mandatory sentencing laws. The Commission should use its influence to serve as a counterweight to this lobby, recommending changes to Congress that promote individualized sentencing. The Commission should also address the issue by holding hearings around the country and by working with community groups, scholars, and other interested parties. Such actions are entirely consistent with the Commission’s statutory mission and have the potential to make a real difference in improving the fairness, effectiveness, and efficiency of our criminal justice system. What is needed is a full court press.

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