Senate Reaches Deal to Reduce Prison Population and Reform Mandatory Minimums

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Senate Reaches Deal to Reduce Prison Population and Reform Mandatory Minimums

By Drug Policy Alliance

cuffsCriminal Justice Legislation Lowers Drug Sentences, Increases Early Release and Returns Some Discretion to Judges

Bipartisan Compromise Bill Backed by Top Democrats And Republicans Amid Public Demands to End Mass Incarceration

Today, a bipartisan group of Senators announced a historic deal on criminal justice reform, rounding out a negotiation process that has lasted almost five months. The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, spearheaded by Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA), will involve reductions in mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses, an expansion of the federal “safety valve” (which allows judges to use their discretion to sentence people below statutory mandatory minimums), and will expand reentry programming and early release, among other things.

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“The legislation is recognition from leadership in both parties that the war on drugs has failed and that the harsh sentencing laws that appealed to lawmakers in the 80s and 90s have had disastrous consequences – especially for communities of color,” said Michael Collins, Policy Manager at the Drug Policy Alliance. “There are things we like about the bill and things we don’t, and much more action is needed to tackle mass incarceration, but this is a worthy compromise.”

Senators Grassley and Durbin (D-IL) are being applauded by DPA for their leadership in bringing both sides to the table and drafting the deal. The bill was also negotiated and is backed by Sens. Lee (R-UT), Whitehouse (D-RI), Cornyn (R-TX), Leahy (D-VT), Graham (R-SC), Booker (D-NJ), Tim Scott (R-SC) and Schumer (D-NY). Text of the bill is expected later today.

“The war on drugs and ‘tough-on-crime’ wave was orchestrated and embraced by both parties – so it’s significant and encouraging that we have a bipartisan dream team cosponsoring this legislation,”  said Collins. “We have high hopes that this is the bill that will land on the president’s desk.”

With less than 5 percent of the world’s population but nearly 25 percent of its incarcerated population, the United States imprisons more people than any other nation in the world – in large part due to misguided drug laws and draconian sentencing requirements that have produced profoundly unequal outcomes for communities of color.

“I spent 12 years behind bars because of draconian mandatory minimum sentences and I appreciate the significance of Congress rolling back our country’s drug war,” said Anthony Papa, manager of media relations at the Drug Policy Alliance. “This is a first step in bringing our brothers and sisters home and healing our families and our communities.”


  • Rebecca Forbes
    October 2, 2015

    Very proud of all the hard work! Fellow drug war prisoner. Spent three years of my life in prison for Cannabis offenses and glad an awakening is happening.

  • R. McKinley
    October 3, 2015

    The cry, plea, chant, demand and, resultant success, albeit extremely limited, “Legalize Marijuana/Cannabis/Hemp/Pot” is Not the Answer!
    Criminal marijuana prohibition is a failure. De-criminalizing cannabis is a small step in the right direction and should be totally, 100% de-criminalized with all previous records of former offenses expunged from public record, and all detainees released from prison.
    ‘Legalizing’ a plant of the genus cannabis and any or all its ‘sibling’ species, is essentially releasing a naturally occurring plant from high security prison, and remanding it to ‘house arrest’, where the control over its use and productivity remains in the hands that initially put it in ‘solitary confinement’ in 1937.
    The real reason hemp is denied to us is a matter of greed, and racism. The super rich have conspired to spread misinformation about an extremely versatile plant that, if used properly, would ruin their companies.

    Prior to 1937 cannabis has a long history (back before Egyptian times) of being an unlimited benefit to any and all that use it for a myriad of applications.
    Those wishing more understanding See:
    And many, many others. Please do your own research.
    Recent headline: “Republican Presidential Candidates Engage In A Serious Discussion About Marijuana Policy — It’s A Start”

    Liberals have long been advocates of ‘Legalizing’ cannabis….

    … it is not a political issue even though the corrupt, ‘paid-for’ talking heads in government representing mega-corporations’ private interests to control the revenue potential of a natural plant, like oregano, cotton, sugar cane, tomatoes, peaches, or any other fruit, vegetable, or herb, attempt unceasingly to make it so; it really should only be a personal issue in a ‘FREE cannabis’ society.

    Cannabis use is a simple personal choice to use or not to use. This choice belongs to no one except the individual man or woman; not any government agent, politician, law-maker, nor agency has the right to make that choice for anyone else. Do not be deceived into believing government is going to do anything that will allow us any complete freedom of decision-making regarding our own health. We, the People, must tell them we have that freedom inherently provided by our Creator.

    There are hundreds of research papers from universities and government agencies that have already provided evidence that cannabis has successful results in treating many medical conditions. There are also hundreds of personal testimonies available by People who have been told by their conventional medical providers “… there’s nothing more we can do for you”, then consequently have sought out alternative medical treatment and reversed and even cured ‘stage-4’ conditions.

    The one I saw first while doing my own research was “The Rick Simpson Story”, and then others followed. See:

    This is my cry, plea, chant, demand: “FREE cannabis” from its kidnappers and prosecute those that have promulgated and prolonged the completely unnecessary suffering and death of 100’s of thousands of us, We the common People, whom have had the most comprehensive medication for most, if not all, major ailments and diseases known to man denied to us through an intentional scheme by the union of government, mega-pharmaceutical corporations, and the conventional medical cartel (AMA).

    Stand up, scream “FREE cannabis”, spread the word pro-actively, and maybe we can save our neighbors, friends, family members, and ourselves from the greed of the elite-minded; and at the same time stop them from robbing us blind and preventing those without adequate finances from getting true and effective medical treatment through “FREE cannabis”. NOT ‘legalized’ cannabis – that even sounds weak and deceptive.

    Blessings and Enlightenment to ALL!

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