Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley (R-IA) disagrees with last week’s New York Times editorial labelling him as a “roadblock to sentencing reform.” Proposed “reductions in federal mandatory minimum sentences are misguided,” Grassley tells the Times. “These sentences are vital in obtaining the cooperation necessary to prosecute leaders in the drug trade.” The senator says it would be “irresponsible” to enact the proposed Smarter Sentencing Act sponsored by Sens. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Dick Durbin (D-IL), which would cut in half the mandatory minimum sentences for importing, manufacturing and distributing drugs like heroin, PCP, methamphetamine and cocaine.
Two other senators, John Cornyn (R-TX) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), addressed the Times’ concerns in the same editorial about their bill that would enable federal inmates to earn earlier release from prison if they complete programs to reduce the risk that they'll commit future crimes. The senators said the Times worries that their risk assessment tools could disproportionately help white prisoners over minorities. “States across the country have found that risk assessments typically lead to results that are fairer for all groups, including minorities,” the senators write, citing a Times editorial of a year earlier saying that data-based risk-assessment tools have been used in “at least 15 states …with good results.”