More than 100 former judges and prosecutors are urging Congress to adopt bipartisan legislation designed to relieve the nation’s overcrowded prisons by granting judges greater discretion to sentence non-violent drug offenders below the federal mandatory minimum.
“At the federal level, we need to address the parts of our sentencing policies that are not working. Over the past three decades, what we spend on federal incarceration has increased by more than 1100 percent. Despite this massive investment, federal prisons are nearly 40 percent over capacity,” wrote the former judges and prosecutors from across the country in a letter organized by The Constitution Project and delivered to Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Mike Lee (R-UT) earlier this week. Durbin and Lee are the cosponsors of the Smarter Sentencing Act of 2013.
The Smarter Sentencing Act (S. 1410, H.R.3382) would authorize federal judges to impose a prison sentence below the statutory mandatory minimum for a broader category of non-violent drug offenses, would lower the mandatory minimum sentences for certain drug offenses, and would make retroactive the provisions in the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 that reduced the disparity between sentences for crack and powder cocaine possession.
The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to consider the Smarter Sentencing Act, as well as the Justice Safety Valve Act (S. 619), another sentencing reform bill supported by many of the same former judges and prosecutors, on Thursday, December 12.