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August 1, 2013

Bill Modernizes Drug Sentencing Policy, Focuses Resources on Violent Offenders and Public Safety Risks, Promotes Consistency with Fair Sentencing Act

With federal prison populations skyrocketing and nearly half of the nation’s federal inmates serving sentences for drug offenses, Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL), Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) have introduced the Smarter Sentencing Act, to modernize our drug sentencing polices by giving federal judges more discretion in sentencing those convicted of non-violent offenses. Making these incremental and targeted changes could save taxpayers billions in the first years of enactment. 

“Mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent drug offenses have played a huge role in the explosion of the U.S. prison population,” Durbin said. “Once seen as a strong deterrent, these mandatory sentences have too often been unfair, fiscally irresponsible and a threat to public safety. Given tight budgets and overcrowded prison cells, judges should be given the authority to conduct an individualized review in sentencing certain drug offenders and not be bound to outdated laws that have proven not to work and cost taxpayers billions.”

“Our current scheme of mandatory minimum sentences is irrational and wasteful,” Lee said.  “By targeting particularly egregious mandatory minimums and returning discretion to federal judges in an incremental manner, the Smarter Sentencing Act takes an important step forward in reducing the financial and human cost of outdated and imprudent sentencing polices.”

The Smarter Sentencing Act is supported by a wide range of faith leaders, groups and organizations including the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the NAACP and The Sentencing Project.

Issue Area(s): Sentencing Policy, Incarceration, Racial Disparity, Felony Disenfranchisement, Drug Policy, Collateral Consequences