State, Local Law Enforcement Groups Opposing Federal Sentencing Reform


Organizations representing state and local law enforcement are trying to kill a bipartisan bill that would roll back tough mandatory sentences for people convicted of federal drug offenses, reports the Huffington Post. The groups include the National Sheriffs’ Association, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the National Narcotic Officers’ Associations’ Coalition, the National Association of Police Organizations and the Major County Sheriffs’ Association. They hope to weaken congressional support for the Smarter Sentencing Act, which would authorize federal judges to sentence drug defendants to less time behind bars than what current law requires.

The legislation was approved in January by the Senate Judiciary Committee. Its House counterpart is still sitting in committee. Republicans and Democrats argue that the bill would allow the federal government to get control of its prison budget and free up resources needed for other public safety initiatives, such as programs that help former prisoners find work and housing. Bob Bushman, president of the National Narcotic Officers’ Associations’ Coalition, contends that state and local governments could end up bearing some of those same costs. To compensate for the federal government's softer approach, he argues, states and counties would be compelled to lock up more people than they do now. Major drug dealers “need to be locked up somewhere,” Bushman said. “Some of these folks have worked hard to get to prison.” The Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association and the National Association of Assistant United States Attorneys also have come out against federal sentencing reform.

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