he U.S. Sentencing Commission voted Friday to slash sentences for 46,000 inmates serving time for drug offenses, the latest move in a concerted effort by state and federal officials to ease decades-old policies that have clogged jails and prisons.
If the move is not blocked by Congress, more than two-thirds of federal prisoners incarcerated for drug crimes will be eligible for sentence reductions averaging more than two years.
Atty. Gen Eric H. Holder Jr. originally asked the commission, a group of judges and other lawyers who establish sentencing policies, to take a much narrower approach that would affect just 20,000 inmates.
But Holder said Friday he supports the new policy. “This is a milestone in the effort to make more efficient use of our law enforcement resources and to ease the burden on our overcrowded prison system, ” he said in a statement.
Judge Patti B. Saris, chair of the commission, said, “This amendment received unanimous support from commissioners because it is a measured approach. It reduces prison costs and populations, and responds to statutory and guidelines changes since the drug guidelines were initially developed, while safeguarding public safety.”
No prisoner would be released until a judge reviews their case to determine whether a reduced sentence poses a risk to public safety.
The House and Senate would have to vote by Nov. 1 to block the plan. But there has been bipartisan support in both houses for a broad change in prison policies.
Who is the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition?
Our chief areas of interest include drug policy reform, women in prison, racial injustice, the impact of incarceration on children and families, the problems associated with re-entry and stopping the practice of using private prisons in our state.
If you would like to be involved please go to our website and become a member.
Friday, July 18, 2014