Durbin, Lee: “Smart Sentencing” Law Could Save Millions, Aid U.S. Prisons


As the federal prison population keeps rising, U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Mike Lee (R-UT) introduced the “Smarter Sentencing Act” to give federal judges more discretion in sentencing defendants convicted of non-violent offenses. The senators said the bill “could save taxpayers billions in the first years of enactment.” Nearly half of the 219,000 federal inmates are serving drug sentences. Durbin contended that mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent drug offenses “have too often been unfair, fiscally irresponsible and a threat to public safety.” Lee called the current mandatory minimum sentence structure “irrational and wasteful.” The senators said mandatory sentences can force judges to impose a “one-size-fits-all” penalty without taking into account the details of individual cases. Durbin said many such sentences “have disproportionately affected minority populations and helped foster deep distrust of the criminal justice system.” He said the federal prison system is nearly 40 percent over capacity, putting inmates and guards at risk. .

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