House is Set to Take Up Criminal Justice Reform Bills in September
Drug Policy Alliance: The President is Acting; Congress Must Step Up Too
Today, President Barack Obama commuted the sentences of 111 people incarcerated in federal prison, almost all for drug offenses. This brings his total number of clemencies granted to 673 people. Many of those who received commutations today were victims of the disparity in sentencing between crack and cocaine.
President Obama has been pushed to do more to release those serving time in prison under harsh drug laws.
"The President is doing the right thing, but we hope to see many more commutations," said Michael Collins, deputy director at DPA's Office of National Affairs. " We also need Congress to Act. Paul Ryan has promised a vote on the sentencing reform bill in September, and Mitch McConnell must do the same."
The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, spearheaded by Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA), includes reductions in mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses, an expansion of the federal "safety valve” (which allows judges to use their discretion to sentence people below statutory mandatory minimums), and will expand prison programming and early release, among other things. A similar bill, championed by Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), was introduced in the House. Both bills have strong bipartisan support, and are awaiting floor action.
In the House, Paul Ryan has promised that there will be a vote in September on criminal justice reform legislation. McConnell has said nothing.
“President Barack Obama has shown his commitment to fixing a broken criminal justice system by once again granting commutations to 111 individuals, ” said Tony Papa, media relations manager for the Drug Policy Alliance, who was granted clemency in New York State in 1997 after serving 12 years under the Rockefeller Drug Laws for a first-time nonviolent drug offense. “With this repetitive granting of commutations I hope President Obama is sending a clear message to Congress to join him and help change draconian drug laws.”