New bipartisan bill focuses on federal sentencing reform

The title of a recent media piece makes no effort to hide the author’s views on mandatory minimum sentencing and the debate regarding sentencing reform where federal crimes are concerned.

Mike Riggs, an editor at Reason Magazine, calls the outcome in many cases in which a defendant received a sentence based on a mandatory minimum term “atrocious,” and cites a number of facts and statistics to argue that such a sentencing scheme is egregiously unfair to hundreds of thousands of convicted persons and, additionally, prohibitively expense to society as a whole.

Riggs notes, for example, that while the number of people behind bars in the United States has in fact decreased in recent years, that is only at the state and municipal levels. The number of inmates in federal prisons, conversely, continues to rise, with inmate capacity in federal prisons across the country presently being nearly 140 percent.

Riggs also notes, as do many other commentators and critics, that hundreds of thousands of prisoners locked up for extremely lengthy terms are non-violent persons convicted of relatively minor drug charges.

A number of legislators have certainly noted the irregularities and excessive costs that attach to the singular sentencing outcomes often handed down for federal crimes, with a number of politicians calling for reform.

Riggs references just one effort focused on change, namely, the Justice Safety Valve Act of 2013 recently introduced in bipartisan fashion by Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Pat Leahy (D-VT).

The legislation, as implied through its title, provides a number of enumerated guidelines addressing departures from mandatory minimum sentences to help ensure rationality and the avoidance of flatly unreasonable outcomes.

In the view of Reason Magazine, the bill “is a long overdue step in the right direction.”

Source: Reason Magazine, “Today Rand Paul and Pat Leahy introduced a bill to fix our atrocious federal mandatory minimum laws,” Mike Riggs, March 20, 2013