U.S. Sentencing Commission votes for retroactivity of new reduced drug guidelines

imgresYesterday the US Sentencing Commission voted unanimously for full retroactivity of new reduced drug guidelines.  Here are items from Sentencing Law & Policy site by Professor of Law Doug Berman, and Press Releases from the US Sentencing Commission and AG Holder:

USSC votes for full (though slightly delayed) retroactivity of new reduced drug guidelines
“I just received this early report via a credible source as to what the US Sentencing Commission did this afternoon on the issue of making its new lower guidelines retroactive:

The Commission just voted unanimously to make the “drugs minus 2″ amendment retroactive with a single limitation — no order reducing a sentence can take effect until Nov. 1, 2015.  This is later than the Judicial Conference recommended (they proposed that it effect in May 2015 to give courts and probation time to prepare)….

The Commission predicts that more than 46,000 will be eligible to seek a reduction.  Part of the reason for the delayed effective date is to make sure each inmate is released with a re-entry plan and the opportunity for transitional steps such as halfway houses or home confinement.”

Here for official press release from U.S. Sentencing Commission

Here for Statement by Attorney General Holder on Sentencing Commission Vote Approving Retroactivity of Sentence Reductions for Drug Offenses

New Report from Vera Institute – Recalibrating Justice

New report from Vera Institute of Justice on the state of sentencing in 2013:

Recalibrating Justice:  A Review of 2013 State Sentencing and Corrections Trends
Vera Institute of Justice
Ram Subramanian • Rebecka Moreno • Sharyn Broomhead
48 Pages   JULY 2014

imgres-1“In 2013, 35 states passed at least 85 bills to change some aspect of how their criminal justice systems address sentencing and corrections. In reviewing this legislative activity, the Vera Institute of Justice found that policy changes have focused mainly on the following five areas: reducing prison populations and costs; expanding or strengthening community-based corrections; implementing risk and needs assessments; supporting offender reentry into the community; and making better informed criminal justice policy through data-driven research and analysis. By providing concise summaries of representative legislation in each area, this report aims to be a practical guide for policymakers in other states and the federal government looking to enact similar changes in criminal justice policy.”

Conclusion from report:
“The legislation described in this report reflects the changing view of many Americans and their legislators about criminal behavior and the goals of sanctioning that behavior. The runaway expenditures incurred in recent years – at the local, state, and federal levels – on ever more prison and jail beds are increasingly hard to justify when recidivism rates remain high. The question then becomes if incarceration is failing to have a positive impact on as many as 50 percent of those who are released, what else might we do in order to achieve our desired public safety aims?  Some alternatives are described here:


The legislation described in this report reflects the changing view of many Americans and their legislators about criminal behavior and the goals of sanctioning that behavior. The runaway expenditures incurred in recent years – at the local, state, and federal levels – on ever more prison and jail beds are increasingly hard to justify when recidivism rates remain high. The question then becomes if incarceration is failing to have a positive impact on as many as 50 percent of those who are released, what else might we do in order to achieve our desired public safety aims?  Some alternatives are described here:


The legislation described in this report reflects the changing view of many Americans and their legislators about criminal behavior and the goals of sanctioning that behavior. The runaway expenditures incurred in recent years – at the local, state, and federal levels – on ever more prison and jail beds are increasingly hard to justify when recidivism rates remain high. The question then becomes if incarceration is failing to have a positive impact on as many as 50 percent of those who are released, what else might we do in order to achieve our desired public safety aims?  Some alternatives are described here:

  • More resources for and greater emphasis on early, community-based interventions for those with mental illness and addiction;
  • More services, interventions, and education for those on probation before they advance to prison and more serious crimes;
  • Keeping more offenders in the community to receive those services rather than sending them to prison; and
  • Providing recidivism-reduction programs for those who are incarcerated and offering incentives for participation.

Push for Sentence Reform and the Push Back

It is heartening to see Congress discussing the failure of mandatory minimum laws and to witness the unlikely allies in this struggle for justice and appropriate sentencing. When a system forgets that it involves people, it is time for us to stand up. We have to shut off the intake valve of the criminal injustice system. Sentencing is crucial, as is oversight of the prosecutors’ offices since they bring  the charges.  So two articles from National Public Radio (NPR) follow one highlighting the need for reform and the about the prosecutor’s opposition to reform.

World Prison Population List – underscoring the need for reform. The US is way out of whack with the rest of the world when it comes to people caught in the criminal justice web.

How Long Is Too Long? Congress Revisits Mandatory Sentences Liz Halloran, NPR, January 9, 2014 ap143810120042_wide-4ba3d18df59a28b6e27896b0847cc12ccbeddc04-s40-c85Excerpt: “Mandatory minimum prison sentences for drug dealers were once viewed as powerful levers in the nation’s war against drugs, a way to target traffickers, and punish kingpins and masterminds. “But Congress, which approved the requirements in 1986 when crack-fueled crime gripped America’s big cities, is now grappling with a present-day, lower-crime reality: Have the mandatory sentences put the wrong sort of offenders in prison, for too long, and at too high a cost for the nation to bear — both literally and figuratively? “Those questions are expected to be addressed in a comprehensive Senate bill being hammered out in negotiations driven by a seemingly unlikely alliance. “How unlikely? Among those driving the conversation are Tea Party Republicans like Rand Paul of Kentucky and Mike Lee of Utah, and liberal Democrats including Majority Whip Richard Durbin of Illinois and Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy of Vermont.”

States Push For Prison Sentence Overhaul; Prosecutors Push Back Martin Kaste, NPR, July 9, 2014 Excerpt: “Some red states like Louisiana and Texas have emerged as leaders in a new movement: to divert offenders from prisons and into drug treatment, work release and other incarceration alternatives. “By most counts, Louisiana has the highest incarceration rate in the country. In recent years, sentencing reformers in the capital, Baton Rouge, have loosened some mandatory minimum sentences and have made parole slightly easier for offenders to get. “But as reformers in Louisiana push for change, they’re also running into stiffening resistance — especially from local prosecutors.”

Mahalo for caring about justice for all people.  This is not an easy thing to do. It takes commitment and love to bring about change. We must be the change we want to see. We must reflect the justice for which we struggle.

Mahalo for those who raise your voices for peace and justice.

Peace and justice are two sides of the same coin. - Dwight D. Eisenhower

Kat’s Trip to D.C. to Represent Hawai`i’s Justice Reinvestment Initiative


From Kat:

JRIBefore I left for a conference last month, I received an e-mail from the Executive Director of the Council of State Governments (CSG)  inviting me/CAP to attend a meeting on June 12th of advocates from other states who have also embraced Justice Reinvestment to enhance public safety and reduce their prison populations and to attend a press conference on Capitol Hill.

Hawai`i is still the only jurisdiction where the Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI) was initiated by community advocates (CAP wrote the draft proposal that won Hawai`i the grant).

My flight was delayed so I missed the first meeting with Denise O’Donnell, Director, U.S. DOJ’s Bureau of Justice Assistance, the agency overseeing JRI. The second meeting was with advocates from other JRI sites. Attending that meeting were:


  • Mike Thompson, Director of the Council of State Governments
  • Marshall Clement, Director of State Initiatives, Council of State Governments
  • Richard Jerome, Project Manager at Pew Charitable Trusts
  • Mark Mauer, Executive Director, The Sentencing Project
  • Mark Schindler, Executive Director, Justice Policy Institute
  • Lao Rubert, Urban Institute, Justice Policy Center


  • Rick Wilson, American Friends Service Committee (West Virginia)
  • Maria Morris, Southern Poverty Law Center (Alabama)
  • Laura Sager, Citizens Alliance on Prisons & Public Spending  - CAPPS (Michigan)
  • Joel Donahue, ACLU – on phone (Nebraska)
  • Kat Brady, Community Alliance on Prisons (Hawai`i)

had a really fruitful (although short)  discussion about how to move the criminal justice system forward. It was great to hear what other states are doing and embarrassing to admit that Hawai`i has not done much to implement JRI. $1 million was set aside for community-based programming in 2012 and we have yet to see this materialize. And adding insult to this abject failure is the fact that the department and administration have called reopening Kulani Prison implementing JRI!  The express purpose of JRI is to reduce the prison population, not to open prisons. Reopening Kulani is fixing a past bad mistake, not implementing JRI. Something is very wrong here and no one wants to admit it.

CAP is happy that something is being done about juvenile justice, yet very sad to see that the administration seems to see it as ‘either/or’ (adults or juveniles) when both systems need major overhauls  AND oversight!

D.C.After the meeting, we went to Capitol Hill for a press conference in the Senate Judiciary Committee Room.  This press conference featured legislators from the t states where JRI is working.  Governor Tom Corbett (R-PA) and Governor Earl Ray Tomblin (D-WV) joined Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), Congressman Chaka Fattah (D-PA), Congressman Hank Johnson (D-GA), and Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) to discuss their states’ progress in reducing recidivism and cutting corrections costs. The lawmakers attributed their successes to state-level “smart on crime” policies at that support individuals’ successful reentry to the community, in addition to federal bipartisan and collaborative efforts such as the Second Chance Act and the Justice Reinvestment Initiative.  Congressman Hank Johnson of Georgia was awesome as he spoke about the criminal justice system being about PEOPLE AND FAMILIES.  It would be awesome to hear some of our own legislators make this connection.

Here is the handout from the National Reentry Resource Center that highlights 8 states with good JRI results working (Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Wisconsin).

Save the Date! 2014 Harm Reduction Conference on November 7



The Tipping Point

Honolulu Community College in Honolulu


Jpeg ConferenceHarm Reduction is a philosophy and set of strategies for working with individuals engaged in potentially harmful behaviors. The main objective is to reduce the potential dangers and health risks associated with such behaviors, even for those who are not willing or able to completely stop. Harm reduction uses a non-judgmental, holistic and individualized approach to support incremental change to increase the health and well-being of individuals and communities.

The tipping point is the time when many small changes become significant enough to create larger, more important changes. Many in Hawaii and across the country feel we are at the tipping point in our response to drug use, drug users and recovery. A collaboration of service providers, community organizations, and concerned citizens will convene for a one-day interactive conference to discuss ways of developing more holistic and culturally appropriate evidence-based interventions in the context of harm reduction practice. Conference Topics include, but are not limited to:

Housing first, homelessness & drug use

Harm reduction and recovery

Trauma informed care

Youth and drug use

Marijuana and medicinal cannabis

Drugs and sex work

Prescription drugs and overdose

Self-care for harm reduction workers

Kupuna and drug use

Overview of harm reduction

CAPWATCH FINAL REPORT: 2014 Justice Bills/Laws

YOUR VOICE MATTERSMahalo to everyone who made 2014 a banner year for justice bills at the Legislature.


SB2609 – RELATING TO MINIMUM WAGE – Became ACT 82 on 5.23.14
Increases minimum wage rate to $7.75 per hour beginning on1/1/15, $8.50 per hour beginning on 1/1/16, $9.25 per hour beginning on 1/1/17, and $10.10 per hour beginning on 1/1/18. Increases the tip credit to 50 cents per hour beginning on 1/1/15, and 75 cents per hour beginning on 1/1/16; provided that beginning 1/1/15, the combined amount the employee receives in wages and tips is at least $7 more than the applicable minimum wage.

HB2205 – RELATING TO CRIME  – Became ACT 118 on 6.20.14
Imposes a mandatory minimum term of one year imprisonment upon conviction for the offense of habitual property crime. Authorizes probation only for a first conviction of the offense of habitual property crime.

SB2315 – SUBSTANCE ABUSE TREATMENT @ HALAWA – Became ACT 147 on 6.24.14
Appropriates $110,000 to PSD to provide substance abuse treatment services to Halawa inmates.

SB2308 – CHILDREN of INCARCERATED PARENTS PGMS – Became ACT 148 on 6.24.14
$125,000 to PSD for programs and services for children of incarcerated parents and to assist with family reunification.

HB2363 – PILOT REENTRY PROGRAM – Became ACT 149 on 6.24.14
Provides systematic reentry programming for nonviolent, low-risk drug offenders by establishing and funding ($250,000)  for a reentry pilot project for nonviolent, low-risk drug offenders.

HB2490 – RELATING TO JUVENILE JUSTICE – Became ACT 201 on 7.2.14
Enhances the juvenile justice system by concentrating secure bed space on serious juvenile offenders. Strengthens disposition, adjustment, diversion, and services available for juvenile offenders to ensure family court judges, court staff, departmental staff, and service providers have the tools needed to keep youth safely and effectively in their communities. Increases interagency collaboration. Establishes a temporary Juvenile Justice Oversight Advisory Council. Makes an appropriation of $1,260,000.

Eliminates sentences of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for juvenile offenders.

HB2037 – PROJECT KEALAHOUBecame ACT 204 on 7.2.14
Appropriates $216,000 for the continued funding of Project Kealahou within the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Division of the Department of Health.

It looks as though the Governor’s veto of SB 60, Restorative Justice for Victims, will stand.


  • 2,312 bills introduced
  • 245 passed (10.6%)
  • 12 bills passed the legislature’s committee hearings and floor votes (4.9%);
  • 9 were scheduled for conference committees and all 9 passed;
  • The Governor signed 8 bills (with only 1 bill we don’t like too much – HB 2205) (3.3%);
  • The Governor has vetoed 1 bill: SB 60


Justice in the life and conduct of the State is possible only as first it resides in the hearts and souls of the citizens.
- Plato

Militarization of Law Enforcement

There have been an increasing number of stories of the militarization of law enforcement and the abridgment of citizen and human rights. This is something of which we should all be aware. As Ramsey Clark said,

 “There is no conflict between liberty and safety. We will have both or neither.”

Today we share a new ACLU report and several articles on this topic followed by an article about a bill to test the rape kit backlog, which we hope passes.

imgresWAR COMES HOME: The Excessive Militarization of American Policing
ACLU, June 2014, 98 pages

Excerpt from Conclusion:
“The use of paramilitary weapons and tactics to conduct ordinary law enforcement—especially to wage the failed War on Drugs and most aggressively in communities of color—has no place in contemporary society. It is not too late to change course—through greater transparency, more oversight, policies that encourage restraint, and limitations on federal incentives, we can foster a policing culture that honors its mission to protect and serve, not to wage war.”

11 Shocking Facts About America’s Militarized Police Forces
The militarization of police is harming civil liberties, impacting children, and transforming neighborhoods into war zones.
AlterNet / By Alex Kane

“The “war on terror” has come home–and it’s wreaking havoc on innocent American lives.  The culprit is the militarization of the police.

The weapons used in the “war on terror” that destroyed Afghanistan and Iraq have made their way to local law enforcement. While police forces across the country began a process of militarization complete with SWAT teams and flash-bang grenades when President Reagan intensified the “war on drugs,” the post-9/11 “war on terror” has added fuel to the fire.

“Through laws and regulations like a provision in defense budgets that authorize the Pentagon to transfer surplus military gear to police forces, local law enforcement are using weapons found on the battlefields of South Asia and the Middle East.  …”

Beware the Plugged-In Cop
The Crime Report, David J. Krajicek, June 28, 2014

“…the sweeping data collection–with devices including fixed closed-circuit surveillance cameras, wearable police cameras, license-plate readers, Stingray cellphone trackers, GPS devices, drones, and iris, face and voice recognition tools–raises fundamental civil liberties issues.

“The collected data is shared among various police agencies, who are able to create patterns and profiles of individual citizens, added panelist Ali Winston, an independent journalist who has covered police surveillance issues for the Center for Investigative Reporting and other outlets.

“Winston said the technology is “driving a fundamental shift in American policing…

“Much of the technology has been adapted from military uses, he said. …”

Rape Evidence Backlog
New York Times, The Editorial Board, June 28, 2014

“The failure of police departments around the country to test and analyze evidence connected to sexual assaults shows contempt for victims, public safety and justice. Medical personnel collect saliva, semen, blood, hair and other DNA evidence from victims after an attack in so-called rape kits. These kits, however, often sit unopened for years in police evidence rooms or public crime labs.

“Experts say the number of kits awaiting analysis and entry of the DNA profiles into state and national databases — a crucial step for solving cases and identifying other crimes committed by an assailant — is likely well over 100,000.”



CAP Watch: 2014 Justice Bills – MAHALO for your support!


On behalf of Community Alliance on Prisons, Kat is happy to report – and to THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT – that the following bills CAP worked on this session have been or are about to be signed into law.

Mahalo to everyone who weighed in on these bills. We had a much better year than most folks, thanks to you. We had 12 bills we worked on go to conference (which is great!).Nine bills passed conference and only one was not good (HB 2205). Hopefully 3 more good bills will be signedon Tuesday.

See more on SB 60, which the Governor plans to veto, under “Bills we will continue to work on”.

SB2609 – RELATING TO MINIMUM WAGE – Became ACT 82 on  5.23.14


SB2308 – $ FOR CHILDREN of INCARCERATED PARENTS PGMS. – Became ACT 148 on 6.24.14

HB2363 – $ FOR PILOT REENTRY PROGRAM – Became ACT 149 on 6.24.14

HB2205 – RELATING TO CRIME  – Became ACT 118on 6.20.14

All the bills in Green are good and we hope the Governor releases the money asap.

HB 2205 sadly has a mandatory minimum of one year for “habitual property crime” (which could be 3 shoplifting misdemeanors). CAP fought to give the court the option of probation, which got added, but the bill promotes mandatory minimums at a time when the rest of the world is finally seeing the harm these cookie cutter sentences cause. A one year sentence means a person is not inside long enough to get real treatment/programming; yet has plenty of time to learn bigger and better crimes as the taxpayers pay…and pay…and pay.


On Tuesday, July 1, 2014, the Governor is signing HB 2116 that Eliminates Juvenile Life WithOut Parole. This bill entitles a person convicted as a juvenile to a parole hearing after 20 years. The US Supreme Court has already rendered three decisions regarding JLWOP, calling it unconstitutional.

The Governor will also be signing HB 2490, the Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Initiative that reforms juvenile probation and increases programming for youth. We encourage the Governor to release the funding ($1,260,000) asap to get a good network of programs up and running.

CAP hopes that the Governor will also sign HB 2037, Project Kealahou, a program for girls that is much needed and doing cutting edge work with girls and the staff who work with them. We urge the administration to allocate the funding so that this program can help our girls by broadening its reach and strengthening our communities.


HB 1573 and SB 2403 would require juvenile justice information (which is sealed by the courts) to be handed over to law enforcement. CAP strongly objected to this and was backed up the Judiciary. Both bills never made it out of committee (to the absolute ire of a Maui Prosecutor).

HB 1717 and SB 2128 was a law enforcement bill that wanted to change the law on evidence preservation. CAP did plenty of research on this issue and consulted with several attorneys resulting in our testimony in strong opposition. We helped defeat this bad bill in both House and Senate Committees to prevent it from crossing over.

SB 2507 required a mandatory minimum sentence for crimes against elders. CAP’s objection was to the mandatory minimum requirement and removal of judicial discretion.

HB 2237  was another prison litigation bill. On the face of it, it may have appeared reasonable…a person must exhaust administrative remedies before they could file a suit. The problem is that the grievance system is so rigged against the incarcerated individual. In Saguaro they have an ‘informal resolution’ procedure or something like that.  What it means is that there is NO PAPER TRAIL. A bill like this has a chilling effect on public disclosure of prison conditions.


Cap has been told that the Governor is going to veto this bill because of the objections raised by various agencies. More work is needed on this measure and there may be a working group convening to address the issues. Kat will keep you posted.

This was a heartbreaker for us. CAP has been working to develop statewide protocols for eyewitness identification. Misidentification by eyewitness has been found in 75% of the wrongful convictions since 1989. The Honolulu Police Department promised last session to support a task force to do so and then they testified against it.  Ain’t no sunshine. We’ll keep at it until those protocols adopted by the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the National Innocence Project are adopted statewide.

This was sad. It needed a Senate Judiciary hearing and despite the strong support of Department of Health and the incredible evidence from Hawai`i (below), it died before crossover.

  • The number of drug overdose deaths – a majority of which are from prescription drugs – in Hawaii increased by 68 percent since 1999 when the rate was 6.5 per 100,000. Nationally, rates have doubled in 29 states     since 1999, quadrupled in four of these states and tripled in 10 more. From

*       From 2005-2012, drug poisoning/overdose was leading cause of fatal injuries in Hawai`i surpassing falls, motor vehicle, drowning and other injury-related deaths

  • In Hawai`i, in 2011 there were 207 deaths from unintentional drug poisonings/overdose


“…equal justice depends on individualized justice,
and smart law enforcement demands it. “
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder