Deputy U.S. Attorney General Sally Yates and former U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey threw their weight behind a bipartisan criminal justice reform bill at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing yesterday, reports the National Law Journal. The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015 cuts some mandatory minimum sentences, makes retroactive an earlier reduction in sentencing disparities between crack and powder cocaine offenses, enhances sentences for some offenders with violent state criminal records and expands rehabilitation for federal inmates.
Committee members seemed most concerned about convincing the public and their colleagues that the reduced mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent, low-level drug offenders would not lead to a spike in crime. “[T]he bill has been nearly unanimously praised, but there is some opposition out there,” said committee Chairman Charles Grassley (R-IA). Groups that submitted letters in opposition included the National District Attorneys Association and the FBI Agents Association. “I might even agree with some of their criticisms, but if we are actually going to pass reform legislation, none of us is going to be completely happy, and we are not going to do better than this,” Grassley said. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) was the only committee member who sounded alarms over the proposed legislation. He connected drops in crime rates since 1980 to the enactment of mandatory minimums that he worked with during that decade as a federal prosecutor in his home state.