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senate Bill S. 1933

Reducing the Minimum Time Non-Violent Drug Offenders Have to Serve in Federal Prisons

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.

Ticktock's Opinion
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01/14/2018
This is a good idea but I wonder how the for profit prison system will take this idea? They often have a contracts for a minimum number of inmates. Also should there not be rehab efforts coupled with the reduced sentence? We have way to many inmates incarcerated for a first world country if that is still what we are.
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Leon's Opinion
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01/14/2018
Non-violent (not plead down charges) should not be in jail period. Boot camps, transitional housing, rehab, etc sure. Many of these ‘crimes’ are against the state - lack of proper license, insurance, substance abuse, failure to appear, and are still warehoused like those that should never see the light of day.
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01/14/2018
Mandatory minimums remove judicial discretion. The trial judge, who hears all the evidence is in the best position to make sentencing decision, not some cookie cutter “mandatories”.
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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.

RadicalModerate's Opinion
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01/14/2018
Free all prisoners of the racist war on drugs.
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operaman's Opinion
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01/14/2018
As for me and my family, we support FULL SERVICE prison sentences. AND offenders should pay for their prison time. Why force the taxpayers to support/pay for the drug offenders- didn’t they pay cold hard cash for their high? No bleeding heart here. My sympathies will go towards the affected families who had to deal with drug addicted members and all their lies.
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Ronald's Opinion
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01/15/2018
Drug Offenders are untrustworthy. In my time as food service manager in a high security prison I learned you cannot trust drug Offenders. The "not violent" is not true.
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What is Senate Bill S. 1933?

This bill — known as the Smarter Sentencing Act — would reduce the mandatory minimums in federal drug sentencing policies, giving federal judges more options when sentencing people convicted of non-violent drug offenses.

The mandatory minimum in the Controlled Substances Act for a conviction related to the distribution, possession with intent to distribute, and manufacture of 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 sentence 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 mules" from 10 years to five for a first conviction, and from 20 years to 10 for a second conviction. For convictions involving mules 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.

Under this bill, the U.S. Sentencing Commission would have to review and change its sentencing guidelines to: 

  • Ensure that prison populations don’t exceed capacity, 
  • While considering the fiscal and public safety implications of these changes, 
  • And 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 Senate Bill S. 1933

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: Sponsoring Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) introduced this bill to modernize federal drug sentencing policies by giving federal judges more discretion in sentencing those convicted of non-violent drug offenses:

“Our current federal sentencing laws are out of date, they are counterproductive, and in far too many cases they are unjust. The Smarter Sentencing Act is a commonsense solution that will greatly reduce the financial and, more importantly, the human cost imposed on society by the broken status quo. The SSA will give judges the flexibility and discretion they need to impose stiff sentences on the most serious drug lords and cartel bosses while enabling nonviolent offenders to return more quickly to their families and communities.”

This legislation has the support of 22 bipartisan cosponsors in the Senate, including 19 Democrats, two Independents who caucus with Democrats, and one Republican.


Of Note: As of March 2015, the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) reported 95,474 inmates in federal custody who were convicted of drug offenses — 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 operating with overcrowding rates of 37 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 roughly 60 percent of all federal drug offenders in 2012. Of those federal drug offenders only 15 percent had a weapon involved in their arrest.


Media:

Summary by Eric Revell
(Photo Credit: alfexe / iStock)

AKA

Smarter Sentencing Act of 2017

Official Title

A bill to focus limited Federal resources on the most serious offenders.

bill Progress


  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The house has not voted
  • The senate has not voted
      senate Committees
      Committee on the Judiciary
    IntroducedOctober 5th, 2017
    This is a good idea but I wonder how the for profit prison system will take this idea? They often have a contracts for a minimum number of inmates. Also should there not be rehab efforts coupled with the reduced sentence? We have way to many inmates incarcerated for a first world country if that is still what we are.
    Like (211)
    Follow
    Share
    Free all prisoners of the racist war on drugs.
    Like (136)
    Follow
    Share
    Non-violent (not plead down charges) should not be in jail period. Boot camps, transitional housing, rehab, etc sure. Many of these ‘crimes’ are against the state - lack of proper license, insurance, substance abuse, failure to appear, and are still warehoused like those that should never see the light of day.
    Like (140)
    Follow
    Share
    Mandatory minimums remove judicial discretion. The trial judge, who hears all the evidence is in the best position to make sentencing decision, not some cookie cutter “mandatories”.
    Like (83)
    Follow
    Share
    This is a no brainer. It's costing taxpayers on average $35,000 per year, per inmate. We need to end private for profit prisons that are full of these non violent drug offenders. How about giving them training and get them a job and I bet it would cost less than $35,000 per person, per year...
    Like (67)
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    Most small time drug offenders need rehab. The money is better spent on that then the prison system. Judges should be able to make the call. VOTE YEAH!
    Like (50)
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    Finally! A step in the right direction. However mandatory minimums should be eradicated completely! Make our judicial system great again!
    Like (32)
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    Drug use is often associated with mental illness it is a disease. Punishing the ill with incarnation is like beating a toddler for spilling milk. Funding increased mental health services and making that a condition of release makes more common sense. Yes, it is true you can take a horse to water so to speak and no you can't make it drink but with no trough to drink from...
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    Jail should be for serious criminals not addicts
    Like (14)
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    Reduce their time and pardon most of them. Legalize Cannabis for all Americans!
    Like (12)
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    I feel by taking power from judges and juries, you bypass the whole point of the judicial system, where people trained in the law or people just like us can decide what our sentencing should be, not a politician that passed a bill at one time to look tough on crime to get re-elected.
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    The “War on drugs” is a failed policy. Addiction is a medical issue and must be treated as such. Preventive education is more cost effective than incarceration. Job training, health services, community building and improvement are more effective in providing alternatives to dealing drugs as a profession; legalization, regulation, and taxation of now illegal drugs (most of which were introduced as pharmaceuticals, and the research of their uses discontinued) would end the black market, end the violence, and provide funding for the preventive services as well as the treatment.
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    The war on drugs has been a colossal failure. Let the judges decide what to do with these low-level, non-violent offenders instead of arbitrarily condemning them to decades in an overcrowded prison system. These harsh mandatory sentences don't help anyone, including the public.
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    Change the laws too not just the byproduct of violating the law. Duh.
    Like (8)
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    This War on Drugs has been a complete failure! Throwing people in prison for decades for low level drug offenses hasn’t stopped people from using drugs and minority communities such as African Americans have suffered the most from it. It’s time we focus on giving more discretion to judges with regards to sentencing and start treating drug abuse as a health problem rather than a criminal issue.
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    This should eliminate – not reduce – minimum sentences. Making war on medical issues and imprisoning people for addiction and mental illness belongs in the Middle Ages where we’re fast deteriorating in our country.
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    Do we truly live in a free society when people are locked up for smoking a joint? Let's not be hypocrites here
    Like (6)
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    Putting nonviolent offenders in prison uses resources and accomplishes nothing. Mandatory counseling programs and community service programs would accomplish more if properly funded and staffed. Save prison for 3 strike and violent offenders.
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    Nonviolent drug users, are people who have a issues, health issue, self-destructive health issues, and need treatment just like chronic drunks, over-eaters, even smokers. Their treatment, or punishment, should not be left up to the whim of the capriciousness of a judge in one state, vs that of another. We should adopt a system more akin to that of more progressive, modern, more humain, thinking countries, and concentrate our dollars and time to turning these people into productive, tax-paying citizens.
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    It only makes sense to me to discontinue mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent offenders. If the situation calls for it, then impose a harsher sentence, but we should at least have the option to give individuals a lesser sentence.
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