A bill was passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee today that will substantially decrease the mandatory minimum sentences for particular drug offenses. The bill will also provide judges with more discretion as they determine sentences for non-violent drug offenses, as reported by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). And despite the ACLU’s claim of refusal to support all new mandatory minimums, the organization does support the Committee’s vote for two new mandatory minimum sentences for $exual assault crimes.
The full chamber of the Senate will be the next group to see The Smarter Sentencing Act, which was passed to them with bipartisan support.
“The Smarter Sentencing Act is the most significant piece of criminal justice reform to make it to the Senate floor in several years,” explained the director of the ACLU’s Washington Legislative Office Laura W. Murphy. “Extreme, one-size-fits-all sentencing has caused our federal prison population to balloon out of control, and it’s time to change these laws that destroy lives and waste taxpayer dollars. We’re disappointed by the new mandatory minimums, but the base bill of the Smarter Sentencing Act is a much needed next step toward a fairer criminal justice system.”
Sen. Richard Durbin (D- Ill.) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) are responsible for bringing the Smarter Sentencing Act to the fore earlier this year. The legislation, if passed, will reduce five, 10, and 20 year mandatory minimums for certain drug offenses to two, five, and 10 years respectively, as reported by the ACLU. Also, the bill will grant judges greater autonomy in the area of sentencing non-violent people who pose no risk to society.
The bill, too, applies the Fair Sentencing Act, which is designed to reduce the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine, to all who were sentenced prior to the act being passed. Many people who are wasting away inside of a jail cell will have their sentences shortened if this bill is passed.
Thankfully, something is finally being done about the overpopulated prison system. According to a recent report by the Congressional Research Service, the federal prison population has ballooned by 800 percent since 1980.
Barry is a student of life. Other than writing, he enjoys mathematics and philosophy. Reach him @ [email protected]