Federal Drug Sentences Can Be Cut Retroactively

usscThe U.S. Sentencing Commission (USSC) voted unanimously to retroactively apply an amendment approved earlier this year that lowers federal guidelines for sentencing persons convicted of drug trafficking offenses.  This means that many offenders currently in prison could be eligible for reduced sentences beginning November 2015, providing Congress takes no action to disapprove the drug guidelines amendment before November 1, 2014.

The April amendment to the guidelines lowered the base offense levels in the Drug Quantity Table across drug types, which means lower sentences for most drug offenders going forward.  The USSC then decided that judges could extend that reduction to offenders currently in prison, but with a requirement that reduced sentences cannot take effect until November 1, 2015. Under the guidelines, no offender would be released unless a judge reviews the case to determine
whether a reduced sentence poses a risk to public safety and is otherwise appropriate.

Congress has until November 1, 2014 to disapprove the amendment to reduce drug guidelines. Should Congress choose to let the guideline reductions stand, courts could then begin considering petitions from prisoners for sentence reductions.

After implementing this change, the USSC estimates that:

  • 46,290 offenders would be eligible to have their cases reviewed by a judge to determine if their sentences should be reduced.
  • Offenders eligible for a reduction could have their sentences reduced by an average of 25 months, or 18.8%. They would still serve 108 months, on average.
  • Over time, these sentence reductions could result in a savings of up to 79,740 bed years (a bed year is the equivalent of one federal prisoner occupying a prison bed for a year).


Civil Rights Act Turns 50.

With the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Act, the U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO) is making the official, digital version of the law available on the agency’s Federal Digital System (FDsys)GPO is the Federal Government’s official, digital, secure resource for producing, procuring, cataloging, indexing, authenticating, disseminating, and preserving the official information products of the U.S. Government.

civil-rights-act-displayPresident Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law on July 2, 1964 prohibiting segregation and discrimination regarding schools, public places and activities, and employment practices. GPO employees produced the original document 50 years ago.

Today, GPO serves as the digital information platform for the Federal Government making information available on FDsys, a one-stop site to authentic, published Government information.



New Features Added to Congress.gov


From the Library of Congress:

Congress.gov, the official source for federal legislative information online, has added new features including an option to save searches and search Congressional Record proceedings by speaker.

The new features include:

  • User Accounts & Saved Searches: Users have the option of creating a private account that lets them save their personal searches. The feature gives users a quick and easy index from which to re-run their searches for new and updated information.
  • Congressional Record Search-by-Speaker: New metadata has been added to the Congressional Record that enables searching the daily transcript of congressional floor action by member name from 2009 – present. The member profile pages now also feature a link that returns a list of all Congressional Record articles in which that member was speaking.
  • Nominations: Users can track presidential nominees from appointment to hearing to floor votes with the new nominations function. The data goes back to 1981 and features faceted search, like the rest of Congress.gov, so users can narrow their searches by congressional session, type of nomination and status.

Other updates include expanded “About” and “Frequently Asked Questions” sections and the addition of committee referral and committee reports to bill-search results.

Tweet with the FBI


The FBI will host its first Twitter chat Wednesday, June 25, at 2 p.m. EDT to continue to highlight the issues of human trafficking and crimes against children. Special Agent Michael Harpster, chief of the Bureau’s Violent Crimes Against Children section, will field questions on the FBI’s Twitter account at twitter.com/FBI.

You can follow the conversation and submit questions using the hashtag #OCC8, which stands for Operation Cross Country VIII, the nationwide sweep last week that culminated in the arrest of 281 pimps and the recovery of 168 children.

Chats are open to the public and everyone is encouraged to participate.




Let’s Get Pinning!

pinToday the Library of Congress launched its own Pinterest account, continuing efforts to make educational, historical and cultural resources available to web users across many platforms.

With Pinterest, the Library can share visual content with a wide audience, allowing them to also curate their own collections featuring the same content by creating and managing “boards” and “pinning” items. Each pin links back to the original Library source material.

The Library is the repository to more than 158 million items of cultural and historical value, including more than 13.7 million photographs, 5.5 million maps, 6.7 million pieces of sheet music and 69 million manuscripts. More than 45.2 million of these items are freely available on the Library’s website.

The Pinterest account joins other social-media platforms, including YouTube, Flickr, Twitter and Facebook.

(Originally Published by the Library of Congress BlogJune 20, 2014

Check Out Your Rights as a US Taxpayer

Last week the IRS issued Publication 1 – Your Rights as a Taxpayer,  identifying the rights that taxpayers have in the tax code. Also known as the Taxpayer Bill or Rights, it lists these rights in a clear and understandable manner (unlike the tax code itself).  These Rights are listed below.


In addition to explaining taxpayers’ rights, this publication also explains the processes for examination, appeal, collection, and refunds.

The information is also available at the IRS website.

Legal Services for Unaccompanied Children

children_QuaPrietaThe Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) and the Department of Justice,  through its Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), are launching a grant program called “justice AmeriCorps “.

This grant program will recruit lawyers as well as paralegals for children who have crossed the border without a parent or legal guardian, and are now facing deportation.  justice AmeriCorps will serve children in the immigration court locations where grants are awarded, and will be limited to children under the age of 16 who are not in the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement or the Department of Homeland Security.

The grants will be issued to nonprofit organizations in 29 cities with large immigrant populations. Those groups would in turn recruit and enroll the attorneys and paralegals for the program.

EOIR expects that the program will serve several valuable goals.  It will lead to greater efficiencies in immigration proceedings involving these children.  It will respond to Congress’ direction to EOIR “to better serve vulnerable populations such as children [and to] improve court efficiency through pilot efforts aimed at improving legal representation.”  And it will help identify unaccompanied alien children who have been victims of human trafficking or abuse, and the investigation and prosecution of those who perpetrate such crimes on the most vulnerable among us.


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