The US Sentencing Commission is confronting a challenge to its own existence. Critics of the Commission's budget and inaction on sentencing reform have begun to call for massive cutbacks and even full elimination of the Commission. Yet unlike other agencies that face similar crises, the Commission has the power to propose reforms to justify and strengthen its role.
For more than six years – since the US Supreme Court invalidated parts of the federal law governing sentencing policy in Booker v. United States – courts have increasingly disregarded the federal sentencing guidelines. At the same time, racial disparities have increased. The Supreme Court called for policymakers to respond, stating: "The ball now lies in Congress' court." But over a half decade later, neither Congress nor the Commission has acted.
The time for action is now, and the Commission has the opportunity to urge changes to restore order to our system. Given the impact of the Commission's reports on crack cocaine sentencing – resulting in passage of the Fair Sentencing Act – a Commission led Booker-fix proposal could be a game-changer.