McConnell Commits to a vote; Deal Backed by White House and House of Representatives
DPA Statement in Support of Criminal Justice Reform Package
Today, Senator Grassley (R-IA) announced he would file a new version of criminal justice reform legislation. The news came after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced yesterday that the Senate will take up criminal justice reform legislation.
“This compromise legislation is far from perfect, but it will have a real impact on thousands of people serving time under our draconian drug laws,” said Michael Collins, director of national affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance. “We hope the Senate will act swiftly on this bill so it can pass the House and get to the President’s desk.”
The bill contains prison reform language as well as provisions that would reduce sentences for certain drug offenses, including:
- Retroactivity for the Fair Sentencing Act (the 2010 law that reduced the crack/powder cocaine sentencing disparity), allowing the potential release of around 2600 people
- Expansion of the “safety valve” allowing judges more discretion to sentence beneath mandatory minimum sentences
- Reform of the “three strikes” law, reducing the “second strike” mandatory minimum of 20 years to 15 years, and reducing the “third strike” mandatory minimum of life in prison to 25 years.
- Eliminate “stacking” for firearm offenses, meaning that prosecutors cannot add sentencing enhancement to individuals who may possess a firearm while committing their first federal offense.
“I know the horror of spending a dozen years behind bars on a low-level drug offense,” said Anthony Papa, manager of media relations at the Drug Policy Alliance, who was sentenced to 15-years-to-life under New York’s draconian Rockefeller Drug Laws. “This reform will be life-changing for the thousands of people who are able to come home, but we also must keep fighting for the hundreds of thousands who are left behind.”
“While this bill doesn’t come close to fixing all the problems with federal drug sentencing, we believe this is a positive step forward in the context of an administration that has sought to escalate the war on drugs,” added Collins. “Regardless of what happens with this bill, we must continue to fight for the freedom of people who have spent too long behind bars under misguided drug war policies.”