A bipartisan group of senators has reintroduced the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2017 to “recalibrate” prison sentences for nonviolent drug offenders and target violent and career criminals. The legislation would allow more judicial discretion at sentencing for offenders with minimal criminal histories and help inmates successfully reenter society, while tightening penalties for violent criminals and preserving key prosecutorial tools. Key sponsors include Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-Il.)
The proposal, a similar version of which failed to pass Congress last year, narrows the scope of mandatory minimum prison sentences to focus on the most serious drug offenders and violent criminals, while broadening and establishing new outlets for individuals with minimal non-violent criminal histories that may trigger mandatory minimum sentences under current law, says the sponsors. It also reduces certain mandatory minimums and provides judges with greater discretion when determining appropriate sentences. Under the bill, courts must review eligible inmates’ cases, including criminal histories and conduct while incarcerated, before determining whether a sentence reduction is appropriate. The bill preserves cooperation incentives to aid law enforcement in tracking down kingpins and stiffens penalties for individuals convicted of serious violent felonies. It also establishes recidivism reduction programs to help prepare low-risk inmates to successfully re-enter society.