Sentencing Reform And Federal Prison News – January 2018

We are a week into 2018 and there is much buzz about what lies ahead in the year from the courts, Congress, and the U.S. Sentencing Commission for federal prison and sentencing reform. Here's a summary of some of the highlights.

(a) Congress - Sentencing Reform

Different bills remain under consideration, but none have yet to receive any kind of “floor” vote. Any proposed legislation that is not signed into law by December 31, 2018, will “die” and must be reintroduced in 2019.

Below are the top bills I am watching for possible passage in 2018.

  • H.R. 3356: Prison Reform and Redemption Act
    Sponsor: Rep. Doug Collins [R-GA9]
    Introduced - Jul 24, 2017
  • S. 1933: Smarter Sentencing Act of 2017
    Sponsor: Sen. Mike Lee [R-UT]
    Introduced - Oct 5, 2017
  • S. 842: Fair Chance to Compete for Jobs Act of 2017
    Sponsor: Sen. Cory Booker [D-NJ]
    Introduced - Apr 5, 2017
    Ordered Reported - May 17, 2017
  • H.R. 4261: SAFE Justice Act
    Sponsor: Rep. Robert “Bobby” Scott [D-VA3]
    Introduced - Nov 6, 2017
  • H.R. 2899: Second Chance Reauthorization Act of 2017
    Sponsor: Rep. James Sensenbrenner [R-WI5]
    Introduced - Jun 13, 2017
  • S. 1994: CORRECTIONS Act
    Sponsor: Sen. John Cornyn [R-TX]
    Introduced - Oct 19, 2017
  • S. 1917: Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2017
    Sponsor: Sen. Charles “Chuck” Grassley [R-IA]
    Introduced - Oct 4, 2017

(b) U.S. SENTENCING COMMISSION - Sentencing Reform

As many of you will recall, the Sentencing Commission was inundated with over 80,000 letters in support of a proposal that would reduce the “Sentencing Table,” across the board, by two levels. Gone would be “life-life” ranges under the proposal. We will know soon if the Commission intends to advance this idea.

The meeting will be held at 10:30 AM on Friday, January 19, 2018, in Washington, DC.

According to the announcement from the Commission, the agenda for the meeting is as follows:

Vote to Adopt August 2017 Meeting Minutes
Report from the Chair
Possible Vote to Publish Proposed Guideline Amendments and Issues for Comment

The Commission is considering other possible amendments to the Guidelines and I will report about those after the hearing, too.


The Supreme Court has a number of cases that we are awaiting decisions in. Expect news from the Supreme Court soon!

About Brandon Sample

Brandon Sample is an attorney, author, and criminal justice reform activist. Brandon’s law practice is focused on federal criminal defense, federal appeals, federal post-conviction relief, federal civil rights litigation, federal administrative law, and the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).


  1. Ben Hur on January 28, 2018 at 1:41 pm

    Hi, I do appreciate your insights, please keep me posted

  2. Carol Hardcastle on March 1, 2018 at 1:21 pm

    Thank you for this opportunity, I have a son who is in the Yahoo facility,for a parole violation, ongoing from a 2009 charge of conspiracy to sell weed charge.
    He never applied for the .2 reduction of sentence form,because is time was almost up.
    He does have a addiction problem.and needs help with now his judge will not approve the reduction reqest. Is there anything I can do for him?

    • Dee Zee on April 18, 2018 at 10:38 am

      I am sorry to hear about your son’s situation. However, going straight to the issue at hand: If your son applied for a sentence reduction under subsection 3582(c)(in regards to the new drug law) and was thus denied on a particular day, he had 10 days to appeal such said motion of denial by the Court. See United States vs. Goodwyn, 4th Cir. case in which many circuit courts followed thereafter. But if he would like to appeal on his own, it wouldn’t hurt to file for a “Reconsideration to Reduce Petitioner’s Sentence” and state all his rehabilitation efforts he has made over the years, incident free; in which he poses no threat to his community.
      I wish you the best….

  3. Nicola on March 22, 2018 at 3:34 pm

    Do you know when they will be voting on the Prisoner reform act?

    • Brandon Sample on March 26, 2018 at 11:53 am

      There is no vote currently scheduled, but hopefully soon.

  4. Tracy Templeton on April 27, 2018 at 12:27 pm

    Hi my son was sentenced in Liverpool to 4 years on August 2017, sonhe serves a straight two years before he gets out, has the law to change January 2019 that my son would get home on tag, as he has heard this in prison

  5. yeymy espinoza on May 11, 2018 at 3:53 pm

    Hello My brother has been in prison for about 1 year and half. he still has 10 months left in prison for crossing illegal drugs to the states were from AZ. He is not a USA citizen but he is a resident of the united states. once he gets out of prison he will be deported to mexico. but he told us about a new law coming in that instead of serving those 10 months he can get deported immediatly. or if he serves his sentence he will be able t0 keep his papers. need answerswe dont know what to do . i would apreciatte it if i get any info on this matter. thanks

    • Brandon Sample on May 14, 2018 at 12:12 pm

      There is a new legislative proposal that would allow persons to be deported sooner, but it is not the law yet and quicker deportation would be dependent on him completing programs and earning time credits for same. With only 10 months left to serve, I unfortunately doubt that the coming law change would benefit him.

  6. Lizbeth vasquez on May 11, 2018 at 4:03 pm

    My husband was sent to prison December 2016 he due the latest to be released is June 2021 I heard that they usually do 85 percent but my husband said that in October of last year they changed it to 65percent is that true

    • Brandon Sample on May 14, 2018 at 12:10 pm

      That is unfortunately not true. Federal prisoners currently serve 87.2% of their sentences.

      • Nicole Bird on July 25, 2018 at 8:54 pm

        Hey it’s not 87.2% it’s 85% in Florida an its always been 85%

  7. Lizbeth vasquez on May 11, 2018 at 4:34 pm


  8. Anitra Sims on May 17, 2018 at 3:17 pm

    Hello Brandon

    I was trying to get information or help about my fiance situation Robert C. Woods 86376020 who is serving time in federal prison who is considered to be a career offender who is a non violent inmate he has approaching 10 yrs of time. They have move him out of his district of GA and Al. I feel that some of the new laws can help his situation but I’m not sure what is in place and what may can help. Please help

  9. Andrea Jackson on May 24, 2018 at 9:57 am

    My husband in federal prison did not sell the drugs but received 12 years for what . People out there killing others and getting lesser sentences .. he have done 5 years so far hopefully a new law comes in to change the time he is serving right now

  10. Munoz on June 21, 2018 at 6:35 pm

    Hi i would like to know and get some information my brother has been incarserated for about 6 yrs release date is 2026 he is a federal inmate J.Munoz#94691280 and would like what law would help and benefit his situation he is there for a drug charge let me know anything plz & thanks

  11. Andrea on July 10, 2018 at 10:13 pm

    My boyfriend is currently serving time for being a career criminal as they call it and it serving time on drug charges. What do we need to do to try to get his sentence lowered as his co-def got 5 years and he got 12 years.

  12. Teresa Lawson on July 29, 2018 at 8:00 pm

    hi, do you know how long it takes to hear back about a decision on the drug minus 2 point after a lawyer has files for it ?

    • Brandon Sample on July 31, 2018 at 6:49 am

      There is no set time frame for a court to rule in a particular case.

  13. Vonnie on August 8, 2018 at 12:40 pm

    Will the new law help inmates with mandatory minimum sentences…was not caught with anything..just phone conversations..please help

    • Brandon Sample on August 21, 2018 at 2:07 pm

      Which new law are you referring to?

      • Eugenio Delgado on January 5, 2019 at 10:54 pm

        my brother Melendez is serving about 20 year’s
        what is the new law ?
        how can i print out the new sentencing reform act

        • Christopher Zoukis on January 6, 2019 at 10:00 am

          The new law is the First Step Act of 2018. We discuss it thoroughly at At the bottom of this page, you can see the pdf of the actual text of the law. There is a download link there. After downloading, you could print the text of the First Step Act off and mail it to your loved one. You could do the same with our analysis. And, if he is incarcerated for a drug offense, you should also read

  14. Mary on September 3, 2018 at 10:57 am

    Hi my son is serving a 15 year federal sentence is there any new laws to release inmates early for drug charges

    • Brandon Sample on September 18, 2018 at 11:51 pm

      There are always new court cases and laws being enacted. We try to keep everyone posted on this website about such matters and encourage you to check back from time to time.

  15. Lisa Spearman on September 8, 2018 at 7:21 pm

    Us this new prison reform act for non violent crimes going to he passed january 2019 and where can u find out infornation about this

    • Brandon Sample on September 18, 2018 at 11:51 pm

      We will know more about the legislation after the election.

      • Valerie A Swinson on October 9, 2018 at 12:55 am

        What I don’t understand why the System seems backwards to me . A Molester, Rapist , Murderer, get less time than a person with drugs

        • Brandon Sample on October 15, 2018 at 6:22 am

          This is unfortunately a perversion of how our system operates.

      • Trena on October 29, 2018 at 4:18 pm

        When is the election?

  16. Bella on September 9, 2018 at 5:16 am

    The new law they are proposing to pass to reduce the serving time to 65% is that going to be just for federal inmates or will that roll over into State inmates as well? My husband is a non-violent offender he’s serving five years on drug charges

    • Brandon Sample on September 18, 2018 at 11:50 pm

      The First Step Act is unfortunately geared only towards federal prisoners.

      • Gina Edwards on October 19, 2018 at 9:27 pm

        When will the first step act (65%) take affect, will it be this year?

        • Brandon Sample on October 23, 2018 at 7:42 am

          Hopefully. We will know more after the election.

  17. David on October 1, 2018 at 6:08 pm

    Hi Brandon
    My fiancé is a Federal pretrail detainee since 25 months for Identity theft and conspiracy. He is not a Us citizen though his work permit has over. He is been working as a trustee/ worker in county jail. He is going for sentencing in November 2018. At this situation is he going get work credit ? If he is how much % per month ?
    I’m anticipating he may have to go federal prison for another 1 year or more. Is he eligible for suspending sentence and deported immediately after sentencing ?
    I have no idea what to do. I appreciate your help

    • Brandon Sample on October 15, 2018 at 6:23 am

      Unfortunately, he will not receive any extra credit for working as a trustee in the county jail. The Federal Bureau of Prisons does not consider these kinds of additional state credit regimens when calculating a federal sentence.

  18. lydia matias on October 5, 2018 at 4:49 am

    Hi how are you i hope soon they change some federal laws for non violent career offenders my son was a addict a user and the feds has a law u get arrested 3times your automatically career offender and get 20plus yrs its sad hope soon we get some changes
    and drug programs besides rdap i think the sentence they giving out is harsh i think they are mistakes in his case L matias #68269-053 sorry for venting as a mother it hurts me to see my son in there he needs program not jail thank you very much

  19. Latasha Bridges on October 29, 2018 at 12:27 am

    Will they change the law on violent crimes to serve less than 85 percent to 65 percent if haven’t been in any trouble and years in south Carolina and state prison

    • Brandon Sample on November 1, 2018 at 5:20 pm

      Are you referring to federal law for federal prisoners?

  20. Philtrena bryant on October 29, 2018 at 4:12 pm

    Hello what are the new fredral law in process for the drug affenders in the federal Bureau prisons

    • Brandon Sample on November 1, 2018 at 5:20 pm

      The most relevant bill currently under consideration is a piece of legislation call the First Step Act.

  21. XR on November 15, 2018 at 11:35 pm

    Good evening, what was the outcome of the First Step Act now that elections are over? Did it pass to reduce time to Federal inmates? Thank you

    • Christopher Zoukis on November 19, 2018 at 10:45 am

      It is still being debated. Hopefully, it will be passed within the next few weeks.

      • Bea on December 8, 2018 at 11:16 pm

        I received a letter from my fiance in prison in Colorado and he said they r waiting on the decision for the reduction but he said it was 78% serve time. Is this true?

        • Christopher Zoukis on December 10, 2018 at 12:57 pm

          If he is in federal prison, this is probably not the case, but the matter is not yet set in stone. Let’s see what happens with the First Step Act in the next two weeks. There might be some movement on this. There also might be some changes to it.

  22. jamie powell on December 26, 2018 at 11:01 pm

    hi my fiancée was sentenced to six months for a probation violation for the feds on October 16. he has did a month in morgan county jail and was than transferred to clay county detention center where he is just being held he has been there a month also he is the only inmate with less than four months to go. will the new reform act allow him to come home on a early release is house arrest an option for him as well

  23. Maria Salinas on December 28, 2018 at 4:18 pm

    My husband was sentenced to 130 months in federal prison for drug related charges (conspiracy) will the First Step Act help in reducing his sentence? I would appreciate any updated information you may have on this. Thank you.

  24. Jessica Sheehan-Moore on January 1, 2019 at 9:17 pm

    My husband was arrested 10/31/17 in IL. Felony X Charges. To this day he still hasn’t seen a judge. He had no clue where the drugs were in the car. But the police that pulled him over went straight to where they were without a dog to sniff it out. They refused to finger print it when he asked. He was in cell for weeks with out a shirt an socks I had to call the state senitors office an congress man an threat news coverage to get him proper clothes. I gave him money to send his belongings home. When they got here box was so heavy I could barley move it, when I opened it they put four gallons of cleaning solution in the box to make the weight heavy an charge us more. All of a sudden the ticket is missing from his belongings from the stop. Supposibly 01/16/19 he is entering his guilty plead an getting sentenced to FED min 10yr. Is he going to be able to receive grace from this bill???

    • Brandon Sample on January 2, 2019 at 9:35 pm

      It depends on what he was charged with and much drugs were involved in his offense. He may also qualify for the expanded safety valve depending on his past.

  25. ASHLEY BROWNING on June 3, 2019 at 5:10 pm


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