Progress Made On One Of The Most Sweeping Sentencing Reforms In US History

Justiceby Barry Burch Jr.

A bill was passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee today that will substantially decrease the mandatory minimum sentences for particular drug offenses.  The bill will also provide judges with more discretion as they determine sentences for non-violent drug offenses, as reported by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).  And despite the ACLU’s claim of refusal to support all new mandatory minimums, the organization does support the Committee’s vote for two new mandatory minimum sentences for $exual assault crimes.

The full chamber of the Senate will be the next group to see The Smarter Sentencing Act, which was passed to them with bipartisan support.

“The Smarter Sentencing Act is the most significant piece of criminal justice reform to make it to the Senate floor in several years,” explained the director of the ACLU’s Washington Legislative Office Laura W. Murphy.  ”Extreme, one-size-fits-all sentencing has caused our federal prison population to balloon out of control, and it’s time to change these laws that destroy lives and waste taxpayer dollars.  We’re disappointed by the new mandatory minimums, but the base bill of the Smarter Sentencing Act is a much needed next step toward a fairer criminal justice system.”

Sen. Richard Durbin (D- Ill.) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) are responsible for bringing the Smarter Sentencing Act to the fore earlier this year.  The legislation, if passed, will reduce five, 10, and 20 year mandatory minimums for certain drug offenses to two, five, and 10 years respectively, as reported by the ACLU.  Also, the bill will grant judges greater autonomy in the area of sentencing non-violent people who pose no risk to society.

The bill, too, applies the Fair Sentencing Act, which is designed to reduce the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine, to all who were sentenced prior to the act being passed.  Many people who are wasting away inside of a jail cell will have their sentences shortened if this bill is passed.

Thankfully, something is finally being done about the overpopulated prison system.  According to a recent report by the Congressional Research Service, the federal prison population has ballooned by 800 percent since 1980.

Barry is a student of life.  Other than writing, he enjoys mathematics and philosophy.  Reach him @ Barryburchjr@gmail.com 

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6 Responses to Progress Made On One Of The Most Sweeping Sentencing Reforms In US History

  1. ana January 30, 2014 at 8:40 pm

    This is great news and long overdue! We should focus more on Education and Less Incarceration of our low-level and non-violent offenders.

    Reply
  2. Barbara January 31, 2014 at 9:47 am

    This is good news. Mostly the poor and minorities received jail time for dealing drugs. I do not agree, however, that dealing drugs is a non violent thing. Selling “poison” (drugs) destroys the lives of families and those who use them. Drug dealers should be punished for their deadly deeds; but there should be equal punishment for Whites as well as Blacks.

    Reply
  3. HiRoader2 January 31, 2014 at 10:40 am

    Don’t see the progress in this bill.., This is merely *recovered ground, A disparity in the judicial regulations/law that should have never been in the 1st place…
    The difference between powder cocaine & cooked is race…

    So if stop-n-frisk ever got repeeled would they call that progress the constitutional rights were violated in the 1st place?… * PROGRESS* would be after people who’ve served their time, stayed straight, – would get their CITIZENSHIP back, the right to vote, drive, etc…

    Reply
  4. HiRoader2 January 31, 2014 at 10:41 am

    Don’t see the progress in this bill.., This is merely *recovered ground, A disparity in the judicial regulations/law that should have never been in the 1st place…
    The difference between powder cocaine & cooked is race…

    So if stop-n-frisk ever got repeeled would they call that progress the constitutional rights were violated in the 1st place?… * PROGRESS* would be after people who’ve served their (non-violent) time, stayed straight, – would get their CITIZENSHIP back, the right to vote, drive, etc…

    Reply
  5. Lynetta Thompson January 31, 2014 at 11:52 am

    We as the community must continue to put pressure on these legislative representatives we elect to speak on our behalf. We as tax payers pay their salaries but don’t make them accountable to us. This bill has not passed yet and it has only gotten this far because of the pressure from the Black, Brown and Hispanic communities’ outrage. We must become more involved in the politics that govern our lives. There are many unjust laws that need to be repeal and we need to be on the forefront and not viewing from the sideline.

    I am extremely grateful to the leaders that have stayed in front of this issue. I will continue to do my part in addressing injustice from my stance. I have learned you don’t have to be a elected official to address injustice you just have to speak up in your community and advocate on behalf of those unable to speak for themselves

    Reply

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