In a rare bi-partisan effort both President Obama and Republican leaders in Congress have recently called for federal sentencing reform to be a top priority. The Senate is currently poised to debate the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act (S. 2123). The measure is sponsored by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa). This bill would scale back some of the harshest mandatory penalties that contribute to mass incarceration and racial disparities in the federal system.
While the U.S. has always had some mandatory minimum laws, Congress greatly increased their use in the 1980s in response to drug crimes, particularly non-violent possession crimes. The inflexible “one-size-fits-all” sentencing laws seemed like a quick-fix solution. However, over time they have prevented judges from fitting the punishment to the crime and the circumstances of the offense. The laws have also resulted in enormous costs to taxpayers and a diversion of funds from law enforcement.
You can help S. 2123 move forward by contacting your U.S. Senators (Sen. Roy Blunt and Sen. Claire McCaskill) at (202) 224-3121 and urging them to support this bi-partisan sentencing reform act and urge for its passage in the near future.