As Federal Prisons Remain Overcrowded, Sentencing Reform Runs Aground


U.S. Senate bills that would reduce lengthy sentences for many low-level drug offenders and that would give low-risk inmates credit toward early release if they participate in job-training and drug treatment programs have stalled, says the New York Times. An editorial laments that tens of thousands of federal inmates “continue to sit in overstuffed prisons, wasting both their lives and taxpayer dollars at no demonstrable benefit to public safety.”

States from South Carolina to Ohio to Rhode Island cut back on mandatory minimums, improved rehabilitation and reduced prison populations without crime increases, the Times says. One issue is that “old guard” senators won’t “let go of their tough-on-crime mind-set,” says the newspaper. Meanwhile, President Obama’s plan to consider clemency for inmates serving time for drug offenses “took the wind out of reform’s sails.” Bottom line: “The prospect of reform has become more precarious, even as the need for it has become more urgent.”

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