The urgency of criminal-justice reform has become a rare matter of bipartisan consensus in Washington, editorializes the Washington Post. A reform bill introduced two years ago failed to make it to the Senate floor. The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, sponsored by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) along with a bipartisan group of lawmakers, would be a significant step forward, the Post says, adding that “it would also be far from sufficient as a solution to overincarceration.” The bill seeks to lower mandatory-minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenses and limit those enhanced sentences to only “serious” drug crimes, though mandatory minimums would newly apply to offenders with serious violent crimes on their records.
The bill would allow judges to reduce harsh sentences handed down for possession of crack cocaine by retroactively applying the Fair Sentencing Act, which reduced the disparity between criminal penalties for crack and powder cocaine. The bill puts in place measures to reduce recidivism and allow a smoother reentry into society for offenders who have served their sentences. Because most prisoners in the U.S. are in state institutions, the Post says it’s notable that the bill also requires the creation of a bipartisan commission to examine the criminal-justice system on the federal, state and local level. Proposals for such a commission have received support from both civil rights and police organizations, which agree that the justice system is overdue for review. The newspaper says a national panel “would be empowered to produce recommendations for reform on all levels of government beyond the simple but insufficient fix of going easier on nonviolent drug offenders.” As a senator, Attorney General Jeff Sessions opposed the bill, but his former colleagues should back it, the Post says.