Good Enough to Be Getting on With? The State of Federal Sentencing Reform Legislation, December 2015

12 Pages Posted: 18 Jan 2016 Last revised: 2 May 2017

Date Written: December 1, 2015


This Article addresses the current status of the push for federal sentencing and corrections reform, and describes and analyzes all of the major pieces of sentencing and corrections reform legislation pending in the United States Congress at the close of 2015. In particular, it considers the Justice Safety Valve Act of 2015, the Smarter Sentencing Act of 2015, the SAFE Justice Act of 2015, and the most likely candidate for passage -- the Senate's Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015 (SRACA) and its counterpart in the House. The Article discusses the merits and deficiencies of each bill, and estimates the likely effect of each on the population of current and future federal defendants and inmates. The Article notes that the legislative proposals have become less expansive as the session has progressed, with each succeeding bill more cautious than the last. The final section of the Article considers whether the result of Congress's efforts will be worthy of support by those who favor significant federal sentencing and corrections reform. It concludes that, on balance, the front-end sentencing provisions of the legislation most likely to pass (SRACA) are "good enough to be getting on with," but that the back-end corrections measures with the most current legislative backing ought to be reconsidered and improved.

Keywords: sentencing, criminal sentencing, federal sentencing, federal criminal sentencing, sentencing reform, federal sentencing reform, SRACA, Safe Justice Act, Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, Corrections Act, Smarter Sentencing Act, Justice Safety Valve Act, mandatory minimum sentences

JEL Classification: K1, K14, K42

Suggested Citation

Bowman III, Frank O., Good Enough to Be Getting on With? The State of Federal Sentencing Reform Legislation, December 2015 (December 1, 2015). Federal Sentencing Reporter, Vol. 28, No. 105, 2015, University of Missouri School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2016-06, Available at SSRN: or

Frank O. Bowman III (Contact Author)

University of Missouri School of Law ( email )

Missouri Avenue & Conley Avenue
Columbia, MO MO 65211
United States
573-882-2749 (Phone)

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