Federal Sentencing Reporter


The Federal Sentencing Reporter was launched more than two decades ago by legal experts and scholars Daniel J. Freed and Marc L. Miller, in collaboration with the Vera Institute of Justice. It is the only academic journal in the United States that focuses on sentencing law, policy, and reform.

Vera and the Federal Sentencing Reporter share an approach to policy change that relies on information, analytical examination, and innovation. Rare among scholarly journals, the Federal Sentencing Reporter focuses—in its authorship and readership—on academics as well as practitioners. In its pages, conversations take place among judges, lawyers, policymakers, and scholars. The publication is an intellectual resource that people in the field turn to for solutions and that academics rely on to propose, learn about, and discuss new ideas. Each issue offers in-depth analysis on a wide range of topics related to sentencing policies and practices. Recent issues have examined California’s Realignment policy, chronicled trends in white collar sentencing, and provided a detailed look at federal drug sentencing law and policy.

The Federal Sentencing Reporter is published five times a year. For each issue, Vera posts on its web site the “Editor’s Observations” (a regular feature that highlights the themes of the issue), a selected article, and the table of contents. Other articles, subscription services, and archives are available through University of California Press


Volume: 26, Number: 4
April 2014

Is the Drug War Ending or Retrenching?

Excerpted from the Editor's Notes: This Issue of the Federal Sentencing Reporter is focused around a set of primary materials and related commentary that generally address the size and scope of our national prison populations, but also places a special spotlight on the on-going review and reform of laws, policies, and practices that lead to the imprisonment of drug offenders. Recent Issues of FSR have highlighted the robust current discussions among leading Democrats and Republicans concerning the need for significant reform of modern federal sentencing. The materials in this Issue focus especially on how the broader reform debate is
finding particular expression in the arena of federal drug sentencing laws and policies.

All observers of recent legal and political developments in this arena are sure to conclude that the long-running “war on drugs” has entered a new phase in recent years. As suggested by the title of this Issue, Is the Drug War Ending or Retrenching?, these developments raise dynamic and uncertain questions about the likely future of federal drug sentencing law and policy. While some may be eager to view recent developments as a signal that the war on drugs is finally coming to an end, others might believe (or even hope/fear) that they reflect a persistent fighting force deciding it can be more effective if it retrenches and regroups. This Issue of FSR seeks to provide a battlefront perspective on these matters while the future of the drug war remains so very uncertain.

Editor's Observations
Reflecting on the Latest Drug War Fronts
Douglas A. Berman, Editor,  Federal Sentencing Reporter, Robert J. Watkins/Procter and Gamble Professor of Law, The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law

Featured Article
The Reform Commission

Todd Haugh, Visiting Assistant Professor of Law, Chicago-Kent College of Law

Other articles in this issue
(available through University of California Press)

Guidance Regarding Marijuana Enforcement
Deputy Attorney General James Cole, Deputy Attorney General, U.S. Department of Justice

Quick Facts on Marijuana Trafficking Offenses
U.S. Sentencing Commission

Memorandum on Sentencing Variance in US v. Dayi
The Honorable James K. Bredar, District Judge, United States District Court for the District of Maryland

Excerpts from Proposed 2014 Amendments to the Sentencing Guidelines
U.S. Sentencing Commission

Remarks by Deputy Attorney General James Cole at the New York State Bar Association Annual Meeting
Deputy Attorney General James Cole, Deputy Attorney General, U.S. Department of Justice

NAAUSA Letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Regarding Mandatory Minimum Sentencing
Robert Gay Guthrie, President, National Association of Assistant United States Attorneys

Remarks on Criminal Justice Reform at Georgetown University Law Center
Attorney General Eric Holder, Attorney General, U.S. Department of Justice

BSA Expectations Regarding Marijuana-Related Businesses
U.S. Department of the Treasury, Financial Crimes Enforcement Network

Attorney General Holder Urges Changes in Federal Sentencing Guidelines to Reserve Harshest Penalties for Most Serious Drug Traffickers
U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Public Affairs

Chair Patti Saris’s Remarks at USSC Public Meeting
Chief Judge Patti B. Saris, Chief Judge, United States District Court, District of Massachusetts

Preliminary Issue for Comment: Retroactive Application of Sentencing Guideline Amendments
U.S. Sentencing Commission

A Perspective on the Proposed Amendments to the Drug Distribution Guideline
Kevin Bennardo, Teaching Fellow and Assistant Professor of Professional Practice, LSU Law Center

Decarcerating the Punitive Society
Joseph E. Kennedy, Professor of Law, University of North Carolina School of Law

Escaping from the Standard Story: Why the Conventional Wisdom on Prison Growth is Wrong, and Where We Can Go from Here
John F. Pfaff, Associate Professor of Law, Fordham University School of Law

Ending Mass Incarceration is a Moral Imperative
Jonathan Simon, Adrian A. Kragen Professor of Law; Director, Center for the Study of Law and Society, UC Berkeley School of Law

An Offer You Can’t Refuse: How U.S. Federal Prosecutors Force Drug Defendants to Plead Guilty
Jamie Fellner, Senior Advisor, US Programs, Human Rights Watch



Posted by
In the most recent issue of the Federal Sentencing Reporter, leaders of California’s criminal justice system comment on the state’s Realignment policy, which aims to reduce the prison population by transferring certain lower-level inmates to county jails. In this guest blog post, Vera asked Don...
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I met Rick Kern soon after I started working at Vera in 2008. Rick had a long-standing relationship with Vera, and he served as an associate with Vera’s Center on Sentencing and Corrections for many, many years. Rick was our “go-to guy” on just about every sentencing and corrections topic—...
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Scholars, practitioners, and justice advocates have extensively examined the corrosive impact of mass incarceration on families and communities. The inclusion of family impact statements into the justice equation, as reported by Vera, signals a welcome confluence of empirical research and criminal...
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Editor’s note: Rebekah Diller is deputy director of the Justice Program at the NYU School of Law’s Brennan Center for Justice. She responds here to “The Unintended Sentence of Criminal Justice Debt,” an article in the October issue of Federal Sentencing Reporter. As states struggle to close...
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Even if you have never read the journal Federal Sentencing Reporter (FSR), I urge you to have a look at the October issue. Earlier this year, the journal’s editors invited Vera to plan and coordinate a special edition—serendipitously, the invitation came just as we began celebrating our 50th...
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