WASHINGTON — U.S. Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) this week sponsored the bipartisan Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2017 to recalibrate prison sentences for nonviolent drug offenders, target violent and career criminals and save taxpayer dollars. The legislation permits more judicial discretion during sentencing for offenders with minimal criminal histories and helps inmates successfully re-enter society, while tightening penalties for violent criminals and preserving key prosecutorial tools for law enforcement. The Senate Judiciary Committee last week advanced the bill out of committee on a bipartisan 16-5 vote.
“America is a nation of laws, and we must all abide by them or be prepared to face the consequences,” said Sen. Moran. “We must also provide law enforcement the resources it needs to keep violent offenders off the streets, while recognizing that a fair and effective criminal justice system should allow non-violent offenders to serve time that fits their crime and then provide them the opportunity to re-emerge as productive members of society. This commonsense legislation would help reduce recidivism rates, combat violent crime and provide flexible sentencing for first-time and non-violent offenders so they may reintegrate back into their communities.”
This bill would narrow the scope of mandatory minimum prison sentences to focus on the most serious drug offenders and violent criminals, while broadening and establishing new outlets for individuals with minimal non-violent criminal histories that may trigger mandatory minimum sentences under current law. The bill also reduces certain mandatory minimums and provides judges with greater discretion when determining appropriate sentences. Under this legislation, courts must first review eligible inmates’ individual cases, including criminal histories and conduct while incarcerated, before determining whether a sentence reduction is appropriate. The bill also preserves cooperation incentives to aid law enforcement in tracking down those most dangerous criminals and stiffens penalties for individuals convicted of serious violent felonies.
In addition, the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2017 establishes recidivism reduction programs to help prepare low-risk inmates to successfully re-enter society. Qualifying inmates may receive reductions to their sentences through time credits upon successful completion of recidivism reduction programming. The legislation also makes retroactive the Fair Sentencing Act and certain statutory reforms that address inequities in drug sentences. Courts must first review each eligible inmate’s case on an individualized basis, including criminal history and conduct while incarcerated, before determining whether a sentence reduction is appropriate.
Items to note:
- Sen. Moran was a sponsor of the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act last Congress.
- The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2017 has been endorsed by FreedomWorks, the American Conservative Union, Prison Fellowship, Law Enforcement Leaders to Reduce Crime & Incarceration, Families Against Mandatory Minimums and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).