In the past year, I’ve enjoyed an extended correspondence with a federal inmate named Adam Bentley Clausen (see website here). He is working hard to promote public awareness of the problems with 18 U.S.C. § 924(c). He sent me the following analysis, which I think nicely articulates the case for reform:
Save 4 Billion Taxpayer Dollars by Amending 18 U.S.C. 924(c)
– I received 213 YEARS for multiple 924(c) “use of a firearm” convictions
– No one was killed nor seriously injured during any of my crimes
– The average male life expectancy is 77 years
– My “life” incarceration will cost taxpayers at least 2 million dollars
– The maximum sentence for my underlying crime(s), Hobbs Act Robbery, was 20 years
– Had I received the 20 year max my incarceration would have cost taxpayers $475,000
-There are approximately 3000 cases similar to mine nationwide each costing taxpayers 2 million dollars, or cumulatively costing 6 BILLION DOLLARS
– A retroactive amendment to statute 924(c) could reduce each “life” sentence down to a more reasonable 20 years (on avg. at resentencing) and thus allow taxpayers to SAVE OVER 4 BILLION DOLLARS
***(Estimated total savings can be compounded once future job earnings and tax contributions of each inmate released after 20 years is considered. Possibly 1 Billion ADDITIONAL Dollars of savings)
I was 24 years old in Feb. 2000 when I was arrested for 9 (Hobbs Act) robberies of mostly illegal enterprises
*Hobbs Act Robbery carries a sentencing range of 0 to 20 years in federal prison
After I was found guilty by a jury the Federal Probation Dept. conducted a Pre-Sentence Investigation (PSI) and determined that the combination of my prior and current convictions warranted a sentencing guideline range of 97 to 110 MONTHS
*18 U.S.C. 924(c) federal firearm statute carries a 5, 7, or 10 year consecutive mandatory minimum sentence for each individual count and then an additional 25 year consecutive mandatory minimum for every “second and subsequent conviction”
The Federal Prosecutor in my case specifically chose to charge me with separate 924(c) violations in conjunction with each Hobbs Act Robbery INSTEAD of simply requesting a “weapons enhancement” to increase my sentencing guideline range
Due to the PROSECUTOR’S decision to charge me with multiple 924(c) violations my sentencing Judge had NO CHOICE but to impose the 213 YEAR sentence that I received
Had the prosecutor in my case NOT charged me with the multiple 924(c) violations (as frequently occurs in most other Districts across the U.S.) then my sentencing Judge would have retained the authority to impose an “enhanced sentence” (beyond the initial guideline range of 97 to 110 Month) of up to 20 years
B) Cost And Effect
*The current cost of incarceration for each federal inmate is $28,000 per year.
If I reach the average life expectancy of 77 years of age I will have cost taxpayers in excess of 2 Million Dollars
Had I been sentenced to 20 years and then been released upon my earliest eligibility at the age of 41, after 17 years and 3 months, I would have instead cost taxpayers $475,000 to incarcerate
*Numerous studies have shown a dramatic decline in the rate of recidivism beyond the age of 40
From the age of 41 until 65 (or even much later) I could have helped to offset the cost of my 20 year incarceration as a productive, tax paying member of society
Now consider the fact that there are approximately 3000 more men also serving unwarranted 924(c) “life” sentences at a cumulative expense to taxpayers of more than 6 BILLION DOLLARS
Had each of us received a more just and humane sentence of 20 years instead of “life” (considering no serious injury or death occurred) taxpayers could have saved well over 4 BILLION DOLLARS PLUS whatever our cumulative later life contributions might have been
Congress has the authority to amend the “stacking provision” of 18 U.S.C. 924(c) and, as a result, save BILLIONS of dollars of taxpayers money by eliminating thousands of unwarranted and unnecessary “life” sentences. However, they need to be motivated to act NOW.
Any future amendment that was enacted and made retroactive would result in a resentencing hearing for each individual affected. At that hearing a Judge would finally have the authority and discretion to impose a sentence that more accurately reflects the individual characteristics of each case.
This is clearly a tremendous opportunity for Congress to save BILLIONS of DOLLARS and to show their constituents that they’ve finally decided to get “Smart On Crime” as the Kennedy Commission famously recommended years ago.
Voters across the country have expressed their overwhelming support for any INTELLIGENT sentencing reform that reduces the cost of incarceration without sacrificing public safety. Amending 18 U.S.C. 924(c) will save taxpayers over 4 BILLION DOLLARS and NOT jeopardize public safety. Thousands of lives and Billions of Dollars will be wasted if Congress fails to act soon. Voters need to let all of their Representatives know that they support this reform by calling, writing, emailing, and/or visiting each of them before the upcoming elections.
We all have a voice that deserves to be heard. Make sure that YOUR voice is heard loud and clear. Get Out And VOTE.