In recent years there has been a lot of discussion about lowering the mandatory minimum sentences for individuals convicted of nonviolent federal drug crimes. In 2010 President Obama signed the Fair Sentencing Act, which reduced the gross disparity between penalties for crack cocaine and powdered cocaine offenses. But, as we discussed in last week's post, federal drug penalties remain extremely harsh.
In July, two U.S. Senators and other advocates of sentencing reform held a discussion in Iowa about legislation currently pending in Congress that would shorten the mandatory minimum sentences in nonviolent drug cases. Senators Chuck Grassley of Iowa, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Tim Scott of South Carolina spoke in support of the bill, titled the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act.
In addition to cutting sentences for nonviolent drug offenders, the bill would improve programs in the prisons to help prevent inmates from committing additional drug crimes after they are released. The bill would also allow those convicted of certain offenses as juveniles to have those convictions removed from their records if they are successfully rehabilitated.
In this age of political polarization, the bill is a rare bipartisan effort. In addition to Grassley and Scott, who are both Republicans, Democratic supporters include senators Corey Booker of New Jersey and Chuck Schumer of New York.
While the proposed legislation is a hopeful sign, for now many of those charged with nonviolent federal drug offenses still face the possibility of extremely harsh sentences. As we have discussed previously in this blog, it is essential to fight those charges in court with an aggressive defense strategy.
Source: Radioiowa.com, "South Carolina Senator visits Iowa to tout sentencing reform," Dar Danielson, July 21, 2016