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Federal Drug Offenders May Have Shorter Prison Terms

July 15th, 2014 at 7:00 am

criminal history, drug offenders, fair criminal justice system, federal drug offenders, overcrowded prison, Rolling Meadows drug crimes lawyerStrict sentences for drug offenses have recently been debated, in addition to the problem of overcrowding at prison facilities across the country and the associated cost to house so many inmates. Not only are states struggling with these problems, but the government on the federal level is seeking ways to address the same issues as well.

A recent news article revealed that Attorney General Eric H. Holder supported a proposal to reduce the incarceration time for some of those in prison in an effort to achieve a more fair criminal justice system for minorities as well as lower costs for taxpayers.

The Proposal

Under the proposal, about 20,000 out of 215,000 federal inmates would be eligible for reduced sentences. The potential reduction in sentence would be available to nonviolent low-level drug offenders who do not have strong criminal ties. The new sentences would apply retroactively and the U.S. Sentencing Commission is currently reviewing the proposal. Just a few months ago, the Commission decided to reduce the base offense for possession of specific quantities of controlled substances, which ultimately reduced average sentences by just under a year.

The proposed plan would act to make that guideline retroactive, effectively applying to inmates who were already sentenced and are serving time under the old guidelines. The retroactive sentencing would only be available to those defendants whose crimes were not violent, who did not use a weapon, and who do not possess a long criminal history. Not all inmates could apply for a lowered sentence though, and not all of those eligible would be granted one.

Striking a Balance

The bill’s supporters believe that the proposal strikes a good balance between ensuring the safety of the public while also addressing the pressing issues presented by the criminal justice system. The issues include the problem of overcrowded prison systems, which has been made worse by extremely long incarceration sentences. Mr. Holder has a strong history of advocating for sentencing reform, aiming to more appropriately align penalties with the seriousness of the associated crime and to make the criminal justice system a more fair system for minorities. He is also attempting to speed up clemency requests, especially those coming from low-level offenders.

Criminal Defense Attorney

There are mixed positions on the issue of reduced sentences, and the current proposal by no means has universal support. However, it will be interesting, if the proposal is passed, whether the same changes will translate to the state level regarding drug offenses.

The Law Offices of Christopher M. Cosley have successful experience representing clients who have been charged with drug crimes. Contact an experienced Rolling Meadows drug crimes lawyer today to schedule a consultation. We serve clients in Chicago and the greater surrounding area.

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