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Federal Sentencing Reform Bill Approved By Judiciary Panel, 15-5

Nonviolent drug offenders could be eligible for shorter prison sentences under legislation approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday, in an initial step to change the federal criminal justice system, the Associated Press reports. On a vote of 15-5, the committee approved a bill to give judges discretion to give lesser sentences than federal mandatory minimums in some cases. The measure would eliminate mandatory life terms for three-time, nonviolent drug offenders, reducing minimum sentences for those offenders to 25 years. […]

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Most Support Senate Sentencing Reform, District Attorneys Opposed

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 […]

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Senate Justice Reform Would Cut Some Mandatory Minimums, Boost Rehab

The long-awaited Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015 was unveiled today by a bipartisan group of U.S. senators. “This historic reform bill addresses legitimate over-incarceration concerns while targeting violent criminals and masterminds in the drug trade,” said Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley (R-IA). The bill would reduce mandatory minimum terms for some drug felonies, enhance rehabilitation and largely ban solitary confinement of juveniles, reports the National Law Journal. The measure merges and modifies three pieces of legislation, including […]

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Senate GOP Divided Over Mandatory Minimums For Immigration Crimes

Ted Cruz and other Senate Republicans are pushing an aggressive immigration crackdown, proposing tougher penalties against foreigners who repeatedly try to enter the U.S. illegally. There's stiff resistance from fellow Republicans, Politico reports. The GOP rift, a drama that's playing out within the Senate Judiciary Committee, has opened up around the question of mandatory minimums, a sensitive topic that's central to the broader debate on Capitol Hill about reforming criminal justice. The divide could undermine Republican attempts to respond to […]

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U.S. Senate May Get Grassley’s “Arcane, Complex” Sentencing Reform Plan

A bipartisan push to reduce the number of low-level drug offenders in federal prisons is gaining momentum in Congress, but proposals may disappoint advocates hoping to slash the mandatory minimum sentences that are seen as chiefly responsible for prison overcrowding, says the Los Angeles Times. The Senate Judiciary Committee is nearing completion of a compromise bill that, like a House bill from Reps. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) and Bobby Scott (D-VA), would change the way drug offenders are sentenced and provide […]

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Leahy, Paul Assail Mandatory Minimum Terms As They Get Awards

U.S. Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Rand Paul (R-KY) used the occasion of their receiving “Constitutional Champion” awards last night to criticize mandatory prison sentences and press for legislation they have authored to rein in federal prison terms. The senators spoke as they, as well as Twitter, Inc., were given awards by The Constitution Project, an advocacy group that works “to foster consensus-based solutions to the most difficult constitutional challenges of our time.” Both senators cited the high federal prison […]

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Task Force: Drug Sentences Fuel Bloated Federal Prisons

Long sentences for drug offenses have fueled the rapid growth of the federal prison population during the last two decades, according to the Congressional Colson Task Force on Federal Corrections. There were nearly 50,000 more drug offenders in federal prison in Fiscal Year 2013, than there were 20 years prior, according to a policy brief released by theTask Force. The number of drug offenders admitted to federal prisons has remained consistent, about 30,000 per year, for more than a decade, […]

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A 10-Step Blueprint To End Mass Incarceration

There’s plenty of talk about ending “mass incarceration” in the United States, but before now, few detailed plans to accomplish it. Law Prof. Michael Tonry of the University of Minnesota has taken a step to fill that gap by laying out what he calls a blueprint to remodel the American sentencing system. In a new special issue of the journal “Criminology & Public Policy,” Tonry presents a detailed plan to slash the 2.3 million population in U.S. prisons and jails. […]

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The Human Toll Of Mandatory Minimum Sentences for Minor Drug Crimes

Half of the 212,000+ federal inmates are incarcerated for drug crimes, a legacy of 1980s laws that prosecutors use to target not only kingpins but also low-level couriers and girlfriends, NPR reports. Multiple convictions for small-time offenses under those laws mean thousands of people are locked up for decades, or even the rest of their lives. Everyone from Attorney General Eric Holder to Tea Party Republicans in Congress has argued those stiff mandatory minimum prison sentences do more harm than […]

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With Federal Sentencing Reform “Run Aground,” Seven Cases That Argue For It

Amid deadlock in Congress, sentencing reform is the only issue that has cut across partisan bickering to “normally irreconcilable voices” like Rand Paul, Dick Durbin, Ted Cruz, Elizabeth Warren, Paul Ryan and John Conyers, says Rolling Stone. Yet the proposed Smarter Sentencing Act, approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee in January, has run aground. The bill would halve many mandatory minimums, make relief under the Fair Sentencing Act available to 8,800 federal crack defendants locked up before 2010 and save […]