Votes On Federal Sentencing Bill Unlikely Before Election Year 2016


The U.S. Senate’s pending bill to reduce some mandatory minimum sentences is not likely to be voted on this year, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), tells the Washington Post, citing pending bills on funding the federal government and raising the debt ceiling. That means an election-year debate on criminal justice issues, given that the House hasn’t even considered similar bills in committees. What’s more, Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), who supported a stronger bill aimed at cutting the federal prison population, says the proposed new mandatory minimums would be triggered by a small number of violent crimes and would not have a “significant” impact on how many people remain in prison for extended periods.

Hilary Shelton, director of the NAACP's Washington bureau, said that while his group has endorsed the Senate bill, it has “deep concerns” about its expansion of mandatory minimums and would like to see legislation that addresses the issue of excessive use of force by police in some instances. “We're still not talking about policing issues,” Shelton said. While groups from across the political spectrum have endorsed the bill, including the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, Koch Industries, FreedomWorks and the American Bar Association, some law enforcement organizations have raised concerns. The National District Attorneys Association questions whether the early-release provisions could “lead to reopening old wounds for victims,” and the Major County Sheriffs' Association says they could impose a “burden borne by local communities.”

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