The House Judiciary Committee unanimously voted in favor of the Sentencing Reform Act on Wednesday, according to the Drug Policy Alliance. The bipartisan bill from Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and John Conyers (D-MI) has a three-part plan to dismantle the harm done by mandatory drug laws.
First, it would reduce the sentences the length of mandatory sentences. Second, it would give judges more flexibility to sentence those convicted of drug crimes to less than the mandatory minimum – making them not really mandatory at all. And third, it would make these minimum sentencing reductions retroactive, meaning those already put away under the old minimums might have their sentences reduced or even commuted.
Mandatory minimum sentencing for drug charges is often cited as being partially to blame for America’s stupefying expansion of its prison population in the last few decades. The nation currently houses the largest population of incarcerated people in the history of the human race, a disproportionate amount of these incarcerations being the result of non-violent drug crimes.
The bill will now move onto the floor of the House of Representatives for a full vote, where it will hopefully receive the same universal support it did in the committee.
“Mandatory minimums and draconian sentences have had a devastating impact on families and communities,” said Anthony Papa, the manager of media relations at the Drug Policy Alliance, in a statement. Papa also served a 12 year sentence for a nonviolent first-time drug offense. “Congress can’t undo the damage of the past, but they can reform these laws to allow people to come home and minimize future injustices.”
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