FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 12, 2017
*** PRESS RELEASE ***
PROTECT OUR DEFENDERS CALLS ON CONGRESS TO PASS SENTENCING REFORM TO MODERNIZE AND IMPROVE THE MILITARY JUSTICE PROCESS
Former Air Force Chief Prosecutor and advocacy group’s president writes letter urging both the Senate and House Armed Services Committees to adopt commonsense reform proposed by the Pentagon that would create sentencing guidelines for judges and court members
Washington, D.C. – Last year, the Department of Defense (DoD) proposed long overdue sentencing reform that included a host of provisions to modernize and improve the military justice process. The provisions, which were submitted by the President as part of an extensive proposal drafted by the Military Justice Review Group (MJRG) would have established clear sentencing guidelines to be used by judges and eliminated sentencing by military juries except for capital cases. These provisions would also eliminate haphazard sentencing, and create a more modern and effective military justice system.
Today, Col. Don Christensen (ret.), the former Chief Prosecutor of the United State Air Force and President of Protect Our Defenders, sent letters to both the Senate and House Armed Services Committees calling on Congress to pass the sentencing reform provisions proposed by the Pentagon.
In the letter, Col. Christensen wrote, “After serving as an Air Force judge advocate for over 23 years, including as a military judge and Chief Prosecutor of the Air Force, I have personally witnessed how this lack of structure can result in vast disparity in sentences for virtually identical offenses. Under the current system, some offenders are clearly punished too harshly, but more commonly the sentences are shockingly light, especially for sex offenders. I have seen some military rapists sentenced to multiple decades, while others received only a few months confinement. I have even witnessed convicted rapists sentenced to no confinement.”
Currently, the sentencing process in the military provides no meaningful guidance to judges and court members when crafting a sentence. This is especially problematic when members sentence an offender. Court members lack the experience and legal training to determine an appropriate sentence. In most cases the sentencing options for offenses at general court-martial range from no punishment to lengthy confinement, including life in prison. With such a broad range of sentences and little context for court members, the existing law offers no meaningful guidance for determining an appropriate sentence and no assurance that offenders will be held appropriately accountable.
About Protect Our Defenders: Protect Our Defenders (POD) is a human rights organization. We seek to honor, support and give voice to the brave women and men in uniform who have been sexually assaulted while serving their country and re-victimized by the military adjudication system. POD provides pro bono casework and legal assistance to survivors. Learn more about Protect Our Defenders at www.protectourdefenders.com or on Facebook at http://facebook.com/ProtectOurDefenders or follow us on Twitter at https://twitter.com/ProtectRDfnders.