Senate bill could cut nonviolent drug offenders' sentences
WASHINGTON - Nonviolent drug offenders could be eligible for shorter prison sentences under legislation approved by a Senate panel today as Congress took the initial steps to change the nation's criminal justice system.
On a vote of 15-5, the Judiciary Committee approved a bill to give judges discretion to give lesser sentences than federal mandatory minimums in some cases. The measure would eliminate mandatory life sentences for three-time, nonviolent drug offenders, reducing minimum sentences for those offenders to 25 years. It also would create programs to help prisoners successfully re-enter society.
The aims of the bill are to make the sentencing system fairer, reduce recidivism and contain rising prison costs.
The federal prison population has exploded since 1980, in part because of mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders.