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Legislation Reforming Federal Drug Sentences Passed By Judiciary Committee

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drug war sentencingMost Expansive Drug Sentencing Reform in Decades Would Reduce Mandatory Minimums, Give Judges More Discretion, and Release Some Nonviolent Drug Offenders from Prison Early

Prosecutors Still Opposing Efforts to Bring Racial Justice and Common Sense to Nation’s Criminal Justice System

Yesterday the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee passed bipartisan sentencing reform legislation that would reduce the federal prison population, decrease racial disparities, save taxpayer money, and reunite nonviolent drug law offenders with their families sooner.  The reforms are supported by a strange bedfellows group of senators, including Senators Mike Lee (R-Utah), Rand Paul (R-Kentucky), Jeff Flake (R-Arizona), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Carl Levin (D-MI) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).

“The tide has turned against punitive drug policies that destroy lives and tear families apart,” said Bill Piper, director of national affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance. “From liberal stalwarts to Tea Party favorites there’s now consensus that our country incarcerates too many people, for too much time, at too much expense to taxpayers.”

The Smarter Sentencing Act is the biggest overhaul in federal drug sentencing in decades. It would:

  • Cut federal mandatory minimums for drug law violations, so that nonviolent offenders serve less time behind bars.
  • Make the reform to the crack/powder cocaine sentencing disparity that Congress passed in 2010 retroactive, so that thousands of people sentenced under the old draconian and racially unjust policy can leave prison early.
  • Expand the ability of judges to use their own discretion when sentencing defendants, so that judges can consider the unique facts of each case and each individual before them.

Even though U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder urged the committee to reform mandatory minimum sentencing yesterday, the National Association of Assistant U.S. Attorneys took the somewhat rare step of opposing the Attorney General by releasing a letter in opposition to reform. “We do not join with those who regard our federal system of justice as ‘broken’ or in need of major reconstruction,” the organization said. “Instead, we consider the current federal mandatory minimum sentence framework as well-constructed and well worth preserving.”

The defense of the current criminal justice system by federal prosecutors strikes many advocates of reform as outrageous and tone-deaf. Even though African-Americans are no more likely than Whites to use or sell drugs, evidence shows they are far more likely to be prosecuted for drug law offenses and far more likely to receive longer sentences than Whites. With less than 5% of the world’s population – but nearly 25% of the world’s prison population – the U.S. leads the world in the incarceration of its own citizens.

“It is disgraceful that prosecutors continue to defend a criminal justice system that is profoundly racially unjust and cruel,” said Piper.  “While support for major reform is growing in both political parties, many prosecutors are still living in the dark ages.”

Source: Drug Policy Alliancemake a donation

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21 Comments

  1. Im not joking Im literally not going to act like weed is illegal anymore, believe it or not it works, even when I talked to the police twice in North Carolina. The cops literally know that the politicians are not anywhere in sight(like there ever in the real world anyway) and they don’t enforce the law like would think.
    if you sit there and actually call out all the real BS of prohibition the cops will apologize for the unfair policies they have to enforce. it was amazing.
    I voted for Obama the first election I was right not to vote him in again he never was going to stand up for me and legalize weed.

  2. Congress is taking too long, TIME FOR PLAN B! Grow your own weed and smoke it anyways until the politicians realize the people stopped waiting for there ok.
    Its already legal in my mind and gods mind no human(politician/cop) can harm me now!

  3. That D.A.s are opposed to bringing justice to the justice system is not surprising. No other group has seen their power so obscenely bloated by the fraudulent marijuana prohibition as have prosecuting attorneys.

    SAMHSA research shows more than 100 million Americans have consumed marijuana. That means D.A.s have their jackboots on the necks of near HALF the of-age population – giving them unimaginable, life or death power that rivals the kings of old.

    Naturally, these power-drunk parasites are hanging on to the monstrously destructive prohibition with a death grip. They should no more be given a voice on the issue than a coach should be made the referee of his team’s ball game. The foxes are all up in the henhouse!

    One of the reasons we desperately need to end the counter-productive prohibition is to dry up the deep well of corruption that has swallowed our country – and world.

    Professor Julian Heicklen never smoked, or cared about, marijuana. But when he retired, he decided the most important thing he could do was to lead marijuana smoke-outs at the Gates of Penn State every Thursday for more than a year. Naturally, he was arrested several times. When asked why he was doing this, he said:

    “Marijuana is the messenger, not the message. The issue is whether we will live in freedom or in tyranny!

  4. Do you deliver to,, Elephant Island Antarctica,,. We
    can’t grow shit down here. We have no phones, only a global radio. Can you be
    reached by radio ?
    Coordinates
    61°08′S 55°07′W,, we will pay for
    postage.

  5. you’re right, there are 1000’s of reasons for legalizing it (I hate it myself and never used it, but tried it) and simply no good reason not to have it as alcohol, they could and would never win the war on it. Too many good people have ended up in jail for too long, when they shouldn’t have went at all.

  6. I like the tone, and the listed political parties named, Strangely Obama and Holder supports this too. I hope that Obama steps across the isles to the tea party on this issue, that they both agree, and lay these issues to rest and maybe the start of other items that, if they were not so hard headed, will soften a bit and progress can be made.

  7. UmmRashad 'Adl on

    Michiganders should be proud of Carl Levin for supporting this legislation. Politicians do listen and they do act accordingly when facts are presented. Thank you Mr. Levin.

  8. Do we really have to wait for the feds? I dunno, I think they’ve missed the last train leaving the station…

  9. “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”
    Albert Einstein, brainyquote.com

  10. That is quite an unusual grouping of politicians, if I do say so myself. I just wanted to point out that changing these laws are great, but if there are not support systems for the people being released, then you’ll just make the problem that much worse.

  11. Yeah, people, the next time you go to vote, remember your unfriendly, local Attorney General. Get her to sign a pledge or something, though, before you agree to vote for her.

  12. A better punishment would be to make them watch “Reefer Madness”. One of the stupidest movies ever made.

  13. There should be a special part of hell where all Asst. US Attorneys are forced to watch the movie version of FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS all day every day for eternity.

  14. It’s no shock whatsoever that the National Association of Assistant U.S. Attorneys opposes the reform. No one is going to praise their offices for sending FEWER people to jail. Many of them are aspiring drug warriors who see Melinda Haag as a role model and want to cut their teeth prosecuting harmless cannabis “offenders.” They think that they’ll be more attractive for public office if they pad their résumés with non-violent drug prosecutions, which our VERY broken criminal justice system makes quite easy.

    Anyone who says our criminal justice system does NOT need reform is someone who profits in some way by maintaining the status-quo. Greed and self-interest, plain and simple.

  15. Geneva Maynard on

    justice for Christopher Lee Ratliff on Facebook was a death sentenceplease go over to Jess’s for Christopher Lee right left and look what they did to my son

  16. That rejection by the Association of Assistant US Attorneys looks to me like it’s saying “No, we don’t feel like actually doing our jobs. These laws let us excuse ourselves from actually working or being held accountable for our decisions because we can just say ‘Sorry, nothing I can do about it, mandatory’.”

  17. Many of these judges and politicians… especially out here in AZ hold STOCK in these Private Prisons that have so aptly popped up here in AZ. They were sold to the people as “saving us money”. In the law, these prisons are supposed to report to the legislature annually, EXACTLY how much money they’ve saved us. They’ve NOT presented a report in 10 yrs. A new study came out showing they’re NOT saving us any money but costing us money due to all of the lawsuits they receive for inadequate health care, prisoner abuse, etc…

    These laws were sold to us under the guise that “Mandatory Sentencing” was actually aimed at those who KILLED someone or several people, then gets out on a technicality and does it AGAIN. That’s what they were sold to us as. In reality it was a backhanded RACIST policy that we’ve lived through and now see that those laws don’t work and need changing. The only reason these Asst. US Attys are opposing these laws are the same reasons as LEO’s oppose it. It’ll cost them their budgets which in turn will cost MANY of them their jobs.

    It’s time this STOP and I’m happy to see bi-partisan support on this issue. At least this is a START

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