Federal Bill Could Reduce Sentences For Non-Violent Drug OffendersDec 03, 2015, by Drug Crimes, Legal Blog in
There is a growing sentiment across the nation that the war on drugs has failed and that the criminal justice system needs a serious overhaul. Fortunately, legislators from both sides of the aisle in Washington are finally reflecting their constituents’ concerns.
This fall, both the House of Representatives and the Senate introduced bills that seek to cut mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders facing federal drug trafficking charges. If the bill passes, it could provide the necessary momentum for state legislatures to pass similar resolutions concerning sentences for state drug trafficking charges.
We Can No Longer Afford to Maintain the Federal Prison Population
While there has long been evidence that the US criminal justice system does not effectively reduce crime or rehabilitate criminals, it may have been fiscal concerns that finally swayed politicians to act. With a federal prison population that has grown eightfold since 1980, the costs have become too much to bear for the federal government. This November, for example, the U.S. Sentencing Commission elected to release thousands of federal prisoners earlier than scheduled by retroactively applying current federal sentencing guidelines.
The senate’s proposed bill would:
- Reduce the mandatory minimum sentence for third-time drug offenders from life to 25 years in prison.
- Life sentences would only be given to convicts whose drug trafficking activities resulted in injuries or the loss of life.
- Inmates could also see their sentences reduced by as much as 25% if they take part in rehabilitative programs designed to ease their transition back into society.
Drug Offenders Deserve a Chance at Rehabilitation
Supporters of the bill, such as Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, hope that “inmates will be able to return to society earlier and become productive, law-abiding citizens.” The current system, on the other hand, forces nonviolent criminals to wait out lengthy sentences in such bad conditions that they may unfit for reintegrating into society upon their release.
The bill’s detractors, such as Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, also a GOP presidential candidate, do not see leniency for criminals as an appropriate direction for criminal justice system reforms to take. Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama — who is a former prosecutor — opposes the bill because he believes that mandatory minimum sentences have worked in the past.
But with clear evidence that the war on drugs has failed, and with reports of the success of rehabilitative programs for criminals — whether at home or in countries such as Norway — arguments against the reduction of minimum mandatory sentences are less and less persuasive. In reality, the only people who benefit from the incarceration of nonviolent drug offenders are the people who profit from an ever-expanding prison industry.
Facing Charges? Contact a Michigan Drug Defense Lawyer
Maurice Davis is a criminal defense attorney based in Detroit who serves people charged with crimes throughout the state of Michigan.