This bill would reduce prison sentences for non-violent drug offenders, while tightening penalties for violent and career offenders. It would also provide more judicial discretion in the process of sentencing and helping inmates re-enter society.
It would accomplish this by retroactively applying the Fair Sentencing Act to federal prisoners who were already sentenced and serving time when that law was signed in 2010. The Fair Sentencing Act narrowed longstanding disparities in drug sentencing policy. Prior to its passing, you needed to be caught with 100 times more powder cocaine than crack cocaine to earn the same mandatory minimum sentence. (Even after that reform, crack is still punished 18 times more harshly.)
This bill would would also reduce several other drug- and firearm-related mandatory minimum sentences, and these changes would retroactively apply to current inmates. Particularly of note, it would lower the current mandatory sentence of life without parole for offenders with three federal drug felonies, to a mandatory minimum of 25 years.
The bill would do a few other things, too, like:
- Expand judges’ ability to use a "safety valve," allowing them to show leniency to some repeat drug offenders.
- Limit the use of solitary confinement for juvenile offenders.
- Make it easier for people to seal records of crimes they committed as minors.
- Propose programs that would allow some nonviolent offenders to serve the final portion of their sentences in a reentry center or under home monitoring.
Finally the bill would add new mandatory minimums for some very specific non-drug offenses involving interstate domestic violence and aiding terrorism.
Of course, lowering mandatory minimum sentences would not prevent individual judges from continuing to hand out harsh sentences. It is also important to note that this bill only applies to the federal prison system, which houses just over 200,000 inmates, 13 percent of the US prison population.