Officials from the U.S. Department of Justice have been taking steps to reform sentences for certain drug crimes. Many observers believe that low-level, non-violent drug offenders have long been subject to federal sentences that are too stringent. As a result, there have been recommendations to revise and reduce mandatory sentences for certain drug charges.
Not long ago, however, the U.S. Sentencing Commission took this plan a step further: The board unanimously approved a plan that would allow sentencing reforms to be fully retroactive for a number of drug traffickers. According to National Public Radio, this move has gone beyond the scope of the Justice Department’s initial recommendation.
As a result of the rule change, about 46,000 people who are in federal prison on drug charges could be granted early release. Interestingly enough, this projected number is much higher than Justice Department estimates that suggested about 20,000 people would be eligible for early prison release under that agency’s plan. No one will be released early until Nov. 2015.
One district judge noted that the Sentencing Commission’s move is about “fairness” more than anything else. People should have the option to appeal an unfairly lengthy sentence and being sentenced at an earlier date shouldn’t provide an obstruction to that option.
Generally speaking, a criminal sentence should be of the same magnitude as the associated charge. As such, it makes sense that non-violent drug offenders shouldn’t be subjected to harsh mandatory minimums for sentencing. Societal attitudes toward certain drug laws have changed over the last several years and the law is starting to catch up.
Source: National Public Radio, “Drug Sentencing Guidelines Reduced For Current Prisoners,” Alan Greenblatt, July 18, 2014