A Plea for 924(c) Reform

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. Highlights

– 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)



II. Analysis

A) Background

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

C) Conclusion

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.

III. Synopsis

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.

5 Replies to “A Plea for 924(c) Reform”

  1. I’m all for justice. Injustices must be fixed. 924 c is an example that should be changed. This is a perfect case to show why.

  2. The wheels of justice need oiling, only WE, can do our best to stop the backlash of rusty gears as these slow moving wheels gain momentum and begin to turn fairly, for the poor individual who receives a prison sentence as long, unrealistic and out-of-place as Adam B. Clausen has been handed. Perhaps the mockery of considering incarceration itself to be seen as a “rehabilitative” reconstruction of the inmate’s values, personality and demeanor, when in actuality, a 213 year prison sentence reflects little more than an administrative, but figurative “death sentence”, viewed by the logical mind as being (in contrast to the crime), both cruel and unusual. My rage is against the machine, the system that refuses to learn from it’s failures. It’s all about money, our money, an endless fountain of funding for the frivolity of our administrators, from the zealous prosecutors to the apathetic judges who cop-out on the fact that the Federal Government has effectually “handcuffed” them, tied their hands in the foolishness of stacked sentences that defy logic, compassion or reason. Those who support Adam, will continue to help him, meantime the onus is upon those who don’t have to know him or his plight, they just have to take a glimpse into his situation and keep foremost in their mind, the concept of justice as we civilized beings are guided by heart and conscience, looking into the obvious disparity surrounding Adam’s 213 year prison sentence. Hopefully, the hearts out there who long for fairness at a tremendous cost savings, will carry Adam’s torch, a few yards forward. If you aren’t moved enough to do it for Adam, think of it as doing something good for America.

  3. My husband has been in prison over 35 years, was going to parole hearing every 3 years, never got in trouble. To get to the point, he went this time to his hearing and they denied him and told him SEE YOU IN 5 Years???? He’s went from level 5/2 now!!!! do you know of anything I can do??

  4. I found myself on the wrong end of that 924c law and after serving over a decade I prison I’m out working full time and a small business on the side I work 60 to 70 hrs a week pay thousands in out of pocket taxes to pay for poor financial decisions by our government and neverending entitlement programs because a good chunk of our population has been taught live on welfare, the fed prison system is a dismal failure its a warehouse with no rehabilatation whatsoever I’m very lucky I made it out and a success but the system almost guarantees inmates to fail once released so I can sympathize with a case like this and many others

  5. This Plea for 924 (c) Reform was posted in May of 2012 and a year later I see 4 responses which just about sums it up. Most Americans have no clue as to what’s going on in our prisons and jails. They don’t know about the huge chunk of change that the BOP sucks out of the DOJ every year and the fact that it’s growing at a fantastic rate. They’re unaware of the abuses of “solitary confinement”, Administrative Segregation, Protective segregation, and the several different kinds of segregation that all amount to the same thing…abuse in the form of sensory deprivation. Our nation’s prisons are now our largest psychiatric institution and those with mental illnesses are poorly cared for. Those inmates who are healthy in mind and spirit won’t be that way for long. A recent wave of flu and pneumonia that swept through our country late this winter, and packed my local hospital’s emergency room was magnified in our prisons. I was horrified to find out they were charging $35.00 PER TREATMENT in a federal penitentiary for pneumonia, without verifying what kind of pneumonia it was and as for those who couldn’t afford it, well that was just tough. Most of these inmates are indigent and the federal government (taxpayers) has accepted the responsibility for the medical care and feeding of the prisoners. What the inmates actually receive in the way of medical and psychiatric care is shameful. They stop the drug treatment programs but they do, however, have the funds to renovate the officer’s dining room; spare NO expense. This actually happened. Inmates, meanwhile, were walking around hacking, wheezing and spreading germs. Last year, one inmate I’ve spoken with was shaken because he witnessed the death of another inmate. Two guards stood outside the sick (pneumonia) inmate’s cell while he died and they did nothing. The penitentiary was in lockdown, and the rules specified no guard could open a cell door without a lieutenant present. So the inmate dies waiting for a lieutenant to show up. Nobody sees these things because they don’t want to look and they don’t want to know. If they knew they would be compelled to act, so it’s easier to look the other way. I have written letters to wardens, BOP Regional Directors, BOP National Directors and Senators on the Judiciary Subcommittee for the Constitution, Civil and Human Rights. I’ve had mixed success. The point is, we ARE OUR BROTHER’S KEEPER. Every single one of them. Every man, woman and child, even in the midst of their worst act, has within them the seed of restoration. I’m not advocating throwing out all punishment for wrongdoers. What I am fighting for is balance and reason within the criminal justice system. It’s all about politics and money now, with the judiciary getting dragged along behind through the mud. Being “tough on crime” may be the rhetoric of 30 and 40 years ago, long since shown to be a dangerous direction, but it still has politicians quaking in their shoes if the outdated barbs are shot in their direction. The money. Yes, the money involved in the Prison Industrial Complex and how it needs to grow with a steady influx of bodies. That’s a whole lifetime worth of issues and battles. Lastly, the precious 924 (c) charge. How Congress has played with that one. There’s the armed robbery. Then there’s the “Felon in Possession of a Firearm”. Then there’s the 924 (c). This is called overkill. I want to know how it ever came about that you could charge someone for a thought process. I always thought that unless you committed the act, it didn’t count. How can you have a gun in your belt, refuse to touch it or physically employ it in any way, and be charged as if you brandished or fired the weapon? If a man has committed 200 bank robberies and never pulled a gun in the commission of a robbery, even though he possessed one at every robbery, honestly, do you think that this robber is inclined to be very careful as to the use of his weapon? Who is more dangerous, the robber or our ex Vice President? Charge the robber for all of the bank robberies or 10 of them or 5. Charge him for being a felon in possession of a firearm in addition to these armed robberies, but then to add a charge for employment of a firearm in the commission of a crime when he did NOT employ a firearm? That’s just criminal. Remember that 21 years is about the maximum that any person would get in European countries for some serious crimes. They actually serve, on average, about 12 years. We’re so out of step, and America has the number one spot for doing many things that no country would want to be known for doing. It was time for change a long time ago. Peace.

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