President Obama has mandated that a sentencing reform bill be placed on his desk before the end of the year; following visits this summer to a federal correctional facility in Oklahoma where he spoke personally with six prison inmates. The President emphasized that “distinctions need to be made between young people doing ‘stupid things’ and violent criminals.” While not guaranteeing the President’s mandate will be fulfilled, the Senate has stepped up to the plate, introducing what’s being called The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015.
Facts About the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015
The Act addresses only non-violent drug offenders in federal corrections facilities, which house approximately 200,000 inmates. This is a dramatic increase from the 25,000 federal inmate population in 1980, when strict mandatory minimum sentences were imposed.
The Act will not affect violent offenders, sex offenders and inmates convicted of terrorism, nor will the Act affect organized crime syndicates or major fraud offenders.
Key provisions of the Act include:
- Judicial discretion to assign sentences below the mandatory minimum for non-violent drug offenders.
- Elimination of mandatory life sentences for 3-time, non-violent drug offenders and reduction to a 25-year prison term.
- Reduction of mandatory minimum 20-year sentences for two drug crimes to 15-year mandatory terms.
- Reduction in solitary confinement of juvenile offenders
- Better means to expunge juvenile criminal records
- A provision to ensure that 2010 changes to reduce disproportionate punishments between those sentenced for crack cocaine offenses and those charged with powder cocaine offenses are applied to offenders sentenced before the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 was in force.
The Act Takes Steps to Reduce Recidivism
Recidivism is a term used to describe offenders who have been released from prison either due to parole, probation or the expiration of their sentence, who then do something to end up back in prison. This new Act seeks to reduce recidivism rates in federal prisons by requiring statistically validated recidivism reduction programing be made available to eligible prisoners within six years. It also provides an incentive for inmates to take the training, offering 5 days reduction in their sentence for every 30 days of the program that they successfully complete.
The Act Provides Better Possibility of Parole for Juveniles Tried as Adults
The Constitution of the United States requires that juveniles that are convicted as adults and sentenced to life terms be eligible for parole. The Act will put into place a system to ensure that juveniles will be eligible to seek parole after they have served 20 years of their sentence.
As any political issue goes, sentencing reform is, of course heavily debated. Some groups express concern over being too soft on any drug offenders. The Human Rights Watch believes the Act, as it is currently written, “may be the best policy reform available from the Senate.”
If you have been arrested or convicted of a drug crime, talk to the expert criminal defense attorneys at Keegan Law. We have more than 40 years of experience and there is very little that we have not seen when it comes to representing criminal cases in the state of Massachusetts. Contact us today either online or at (617) 799-7644 to schedule a free case evaluation.