Oct 4, 2017

Senators revive bipartisan criminal justice reform bill

Photo: Manuel Balce Ceneta, Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP

Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Dick Durbin are (D-IL) re-introducing a bipartisan criminal justice reform bill that never made it to the floor last year. It calls for lower minimum sentences for drug offenders, targets violent criminals and calls for a National Criminal Justice Commission to conduct a review of the criminal justice system.

Why it matters: The Senators hope that the bill can receive bipartisan support by reducing sentences for non-violent drug offenders, but still enforcing harsher sentences for violent criminals. "This bill strikes the right balance of improving public safety and ensuring fairness in the criminal justice system," Sen. Grassley said in the press release.

Here are highlights from the bill:

  • Drug felons would have a reduced minimum mandatory sentence — 15 years instead of 20. This would be applied retroactively, after a court's review of the prisoner, as long as there is no past conviction of a violent felony.
  • Someone who has received "three strikes" and has been convicted of a drug felony would have a minimum mandatory sentence of 25 years instead of a life sentence.
  • Anyone who was not an importer, exporter, high-level distributor or supplier, wholesaler, manufacturer, or any participant in conspiracy are eligible for less than the 10-year mandatory minimum. Even those with up to four points on their criminal record could qualify for less than the minimum sentence where there are non-violent crimes.
  • The bill raises the maximum sentence from 20 to 25 years for those who commit interstate domestic violence which results in permanent disfigurement or life-threatening injury. The maximum would be increased from 10 to 15 years when serious bodily injury occurs or when a dangerous weapon is used. If death results, there would be with a 10-year minimum sentence.
  • Those who have been convicted of using a firearm during a violent crime or drug crime and have previously been convicted of the same offense would face a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years instead of 15, which could be applied retroactively.
  • The bill requires the DoJ to assess all federal inmates' risks of recidivism and assign them to proper programs, including work and education programs, drug rehabilitation, job training, and faith-based programs.
  • It calls for the creation of a National Criminal Justice Commission made up of 16 members, and gives $14,000,000 over two years for a comprehensive review of the justice system.

Read more details, here.

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