Published on: Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Today, the United States Sentencing Commission released a new report titled Retroactivity & Recidivism: The Drugs Minus Two Amendment (July 8, 2020).  This report analyzes the recidvisim rates among the drug offenders who were released immediately before and after the retroactive implementation of the 2014 Drugs Minus Two Amendment to the United States Sentencing Guidelines.  By Guideline Amendment 782 (commonly referred to as "Drugs Minus Two Amendment"), the Commission reduced by two levels the base offense levels assigned by the Drug Quanity Table for each drug quantity, across all drug types. See USSG, App. C, amend. 782 (effective Nov. 1, 2014).  Separately, though Amendment 788, the Commission made the Drugs Minus Two Amendment Retroactive, allowing eligible offenders serving a previously imposed sentence of imprisonment to seek a sentence reduction, but the Commission delayed the effective date of any sentence reduction until a year later, November 1, 2015. See USSG App. C, amend. 788 (effective Nov. 1, 2014). The Commission's new report sought to answer the following question: "Did the reduced sentences for the Retroactivity Group result in increased recidivism?"

The Commission found: "There was no statistically significant difference in the recidivism rates of offenders released early pursuant to retroactive application of the Drugs Minus Two Amendment and a comparable group of offenders who served their full sentences."  In fact, the recidivisim rate for the comparison group (i.e., offenders who would have been eligible for sentence reductions through retroactive application of the Drugs Minus Two Amendment but were released just between May 1, 2004 and October 29, 2015, because they served their full sentence), was slightly higher (30.5%) than the retroactivity group who were released early (27.9%). 

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