• Senate Criminal Justice Reform Bill Would Lower Sentences For Drug Dealers

    A bipartisan group of senators introduced a landmark criminal justice bill Thursday to reform the system, including lowering mandatory minimum sentences for street level drug dealers.

    The bill lowers a range of mandatory minimums for certain drug offenses, changes the sentencing for some gun crimes and raises it for others and employs a range of prison programs to reduce recidivism.

    The bill has more hope than other proposed criminal justice reform bills mainly because Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley helped craft the legislation and present it at the press conference. Grassley has long been an outspoken skeptic of criminal justice reform, but his support will make the committee process much easier and signal to other senators that the reforms are not too extreme.

    “We didn’t start off in the best of circumstances,” Sen. Dick Durbin said at the press conference. “Senator Grassley was very skeptical…publicly, and on the floor, repeatedly.”

    Now, the question is what will happen in the House. Senate staffers present at the press conference expressed misgivings to The Daily Caller News Foundation about whether the House could actually get a passable bill.

    Currently, the SAFE Justice Act is a criminal justice reform bill that has a huge number of cosponsors, 46, but which is more extreme than the Senate’s bill and thus less likely to pass.

    House Judiciary chairman Bob Goodlatte has not received the bill well and has said he will come out with his own criminal justice reform bill soon.

    The Senate’s bill includes a range of reforms:

    • The three-strike penalty for drug felonies is reduced from life in prison to 25 years in prison.
    • The 20-year mandatory minimum for drug felonies is reduced to 15 years.
    • Certain very low-level drug crimes will no longer count toward requiring a mandatory minimum sentence.
    • These sentencing reforms can be applied retroactively to reduce a sentence if a court looks at the case again.
    • It would require worse crimes to get the 10-year drug crime mandatory minimum.
    • The bill lowers the mandatory for some gun crimes from 25 years to 15 years.
    • The legislation would increase the maximum sentence for a convicted felon possessing a firearm from 10 years to 15 years.
    • The bill reduces the sentencing disparity between crack and cocaine.
    • The bill creates mandatory minimum sentences for interstate domestic violence and providing weapons and defense materials to terrorists and certain countries while requiring the report and inventory of all federal criminal offenses.
    • Inmates can participate in programs for earlier release.
    • The government will create a risk assessment profile for each inmate which will affect what programming they participate in and affect their release date.
    • Prison guards would be allowed to carry pepper spray.
    • The bill would restrict the use of solitary confinement on juvenile offenders.
    • Certain nonviolent offenders would be released when they turn 60, and terminally ill inmates who have served a good portion of their sentence could get released early.
    • Nonviolent juveniles who are not tried as adults would be eligible to get the offense wiped from their record.

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