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house Bill H.R. 920

Should Federal Mandatory Minimums Be Reduced for Non-Violent Drug Offenders?

Argument in favor

It doesn’t make sense to imprison low-level, non-violent drug offenders for years, or even decades considering how overcrowded the prison system already is. The U.S. corrections system should be focusing its resources on violent threats to the public.

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04/05/2016
"We need to end the tragic reality that the United States has more people in jail than any other country on earth."[twitter.com/SenSanders]
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BarackObama's Opinion
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04/05/2016
"For nonviolent drug crimes, we need to lower long mandatory minimum sentences -- or get rid of them entirely." [whitehouse.gov]
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Mikeizzo1993's Opinion
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08/04/2015
Prison is for violent offenders. People go to jail for life for selling weed. Child molesters get as little as 11 years. This makes no sense.
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Argument opposed

Drugs ruin people’s lives, and those who make and distribute drugs need to be incarcerated as they pose a clear threat to public safety. Lowering mandatory minimums sends the wrong message and undermines the war on drugs.

DonaldTrump's Opinion
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04/05/2016
"I am a huge fan of the police. I think the police have to be given back power.” [washingtonpost.com]
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billwdk9's Opinion
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08/06/2015
We need to be extremely hard on drug dealers and drug users.
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operaman's Opinion
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08/04/2015
People who are incarcerated for drug violations were placed there by a legal system involving a D.A., a judge and/or a jury. Yes, some sentences may be long, but some are short. Many drug offenders plead down from much more serious offenses. I will trust " We The People" with drug offender sentences. Just tired of the "Big Dude" in DC trying to push his progressive thinking/agenda.
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bill Progress


  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The senate has not voted
  • The house has not voted
      house Committees
      Committee on Energy and Commerce
      Health
      Committee on the Judiciary
      Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security
    IntroducedFebruary 12th, 2015

What is House Bill H.R. 920?

 

This bill would reduce mandatory minimums in federal drug sentencing, giving federal judges more discretion when sentencing people convicted of non-violent drug offenses.

The mandatory minimum set forth in the Controlled Substances Act for a conviction related to the manufacture, distribution, or possession with intent to distribute certain drugs in specified amounts would be lowered from 10 years to five years. If death or serious bodily harm occurs from the drug’s use, the mandatory minimum would be lowered from 20 years to 10 years.

For first convictions, the mandatory minimum would be lowered from five years to two years, and dropped from 20 years to 10 years for a second conviction. If a person had two or more felony drug convictions before their next conviction, the mandatory minimum would be dropped from life imprisonment to 25 years.

Mandatory minimums under the Controlled Substances Import and Export Act would be lowered for drug couriers from 10 years to five for a first conviction, and from 20 years to 10 for a second conviction. For convictions involving couriers of smaller amounts of illegal drugs, the mandatory minimum would be lowered from five years to two for a first offense, and from 10 years to five for a second offense.

The U.S. Sentencing Commission would be directed to review and change its sentencing guidelines to:

  • Ensure that prison populations don’t exceed capacity;

  • Consider the fiscal and public safety implications of these changes;

  • Reduce racial disparities in Federal sentencing.

Impact

People convicted of low-level, non-violent drug offenses, their families and communities, federal judges, the DOJ, the Attorney General.

Cost of House Bill H.R. 920

A current CBO cost estimate is unavailable. In January 2014, the CBO estimated this bill’s predecessor (in the 113th Congress), finding that it would reduce DOJ spending by $4 billion over the 2015-2024 period. However, because eligible prisoners would be released sooner and be able to receive federal benefits, there would be an increase in spending of about $1 billion over that same period — leading to a net savings of about $3 billion.

More Information

In-Depth: The lead sponsor of this legislation — Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID) — praised the increased flexibility his bill would provide: 

“We must be strict, but also smart, when it comes to federal criminal sentencing. The ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach Congress put on the books has tied the hands of judges without improving public safety. Nearly half of the inmates filling our federal prisons are incarcerated for drug offenses. Many of them do not need overly harsh penalties. And yet judges are forced to impose these penalties, even if they don’t want to.”

At the moment, this bill has 52 cosponsors, including 38 Democrats and 14 Republicans, while the Senate version of this legislation has seven Democratic and five Republican cosponsors. It has been endorsed by a variety of groups from across the ideological spectrum, including Heritage Action; American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU); American Bar Association; Constitution Project; and the NAACP — among others.


Of Note: According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) there were 95,474 inmates in federal custody who were convicted of drug offenses as of March 2015  making up 48.7 percent of all federal inmates. The population of federal prisons has grown by nearly 800 percent in the past 30 years, and the Director of the BOP told a House Appropriations subcommittee in 2013 that the federal prison system was overcrowded by 40 percent.

Of all the prisoners in BOP custody in 2010, 39.4 percent were subject to a mandatory minimum sentence. Mandatory minimum sentences applied to about 60 percent of all federal drug offenders in 2012, and of those federal drug offenders — only 15 percent had a weapon involved in their arrest.


Media:

Summary by Eric Revell
(Photo Credit: Flickr user Office of Public Affairs)

AKA

Smarter Sentencing Act of 2015

Official Title

To focus limited Federal resources on the most serious offenders.

    "We need to end the tragic reality that the United States has more people in jail than any other country on earth."[twitter.com/SenSanders]
    Like (167)
    Follow
    Share
    "I am a huge fan of the police. I think the police have to be given back power.” [washingtonpost.com]
    Like (35)
    Follow
    Share
    "For nonviolent drug crimes, we need to lower long mandatory minimum sentences -- or get rid of them entirely." [whitehouse.gov]
    Like (71)
    Follow
    Share
    Prison is for violent offenders. People go to jail for life for selling weed. Child molesters get as little as 11 years. This makes no sense.
    Like (56)
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    These reduced sentences are logical. This is a good way to work towards de-cluttering our prisons.
    Like (28)
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    Yes. The war on drugs has been a failure. According to "The House I live in" (watch it) there has been over $1 trillion spent and drug use rate has not gone down and we jail more than any other country in the world. Minimum sentences should be reduced and rehab programs should have more funding
    Like (18)
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    We need to be extremely hard on drug dealers and drug users.
    Like (10)
    Follow
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    People who are incarcerated for drug violations were placed there by a legal system involving a D.A., a judge and/or a jury. Yes, some sentences may be long, but some are short. Many drug offenders plead down from much more serious offenses. I will trust " We The People" with drug offender sentences. Just tired of the "Big Dude" in DC trying to push his progressive thinking/agenda.
    Like (8)
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    We lost the war on drugs decades ago. Punishing non-violent drug offenders at all is absurd, we should be spending those same resources (law enforcement, courts, and prisons) on rehabilitation of those with drug dependency. Over half the inmates at our overcrowded prisons, where we incarcerate more people as a percentage of population than any other country in the world, are non-violent drug offenders. By the way, a good portion of the violent drug offenders are violent because they are fighting for distribution control over drugs, which would become irrelevant and non-violent if drugs were legalized. US drug policy is ridiculous, and that is coming from an arch-conservative.
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    Waste of money and time. Big negative impact on a persons life.
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    Nonviolent offender should not receive the harsh sentences as violent offenders
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    Mandatory minimums are a symptom of our broken for-profit prison human rights crisis
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    Incarceration cost the taxpayers money. Locking up nonviolent offenders it's a waste of this when there are alternative means to rehabilitate and punish. Keep the prisons for those that need to be removed from society. Rehabilitate those who need help.
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    Do the time for your crime, I am a business man who hires and tries to give folks just like these people a second chance, what do they do, THEY LIE CHEAT AND STEAL!
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    Yes, but mules should not be included. They are part of the distribution engine and should be categorized like dealers.
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    The US has the highest incarceration rate in the entire world. Forcing judges to sentence nonviolent offenders to jail time (and removing their discretion) is ridiculous and expensive. Besides jail isn't a deterrent especially for someone with an addiction that isn't effectively treated in prison. Rehabilitation, not retribution, is the key to fixing our strained criminal justice system
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    10 years for being a low level drug dealer is not what you owe for punishment. It accomplishes nothing, it overcrowds our prisons, it costs taxpayers money, and it has not proven to deter people from a life of crime. We should be rehabilitating drug users instead, which would give a better life for addicts, lessen crime rate by lowering demand for narcotics, and boost our economy by returning drug users to being productive members of society.
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    We have too many in prisons! We should be sending them to mandatory rehabilitation centers or assigning them community service or ANYTHING more PRODUCTIVE
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    I will not traverse a Colorado highway where stoners are now congregating. Remove the threat of incarceration and expect to get a whole boatload of self indulgent abuse of common sense.
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    This Country needs to rely on something other then profit by war. The "Drug War" is the longest American war in History. It's a War on Personal Choice and Liberty. It has destroyed the family and built a Prison Industry. It's a war on our Constitutional Unalienable rights. Like Prohibition of the past it makes Criminals out of us for things that are no crime at all. Locking up American citizens because they chose a substance that was not made by Big Pharma is no crime. Perhaps one day the drunken pedophiles in DC will do a bong hit....
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