CHN: Sentencing Reform Bill Moves through Committee

The bipartisan Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015 passed (15-5) the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday, three days after the committee held a hearing on the bill. Several advocacy groups, including CHN, sent letters in support of the legislation to members of the committee prior to the Thursday vote. As noted in the October 6 Human Needs Report, the bill would eliminate the harsh three-strike mandatory life sentence, reduce federal penalties for some drug-related and other crimes, and address the extreme disparities in sentencing for crack versus powder cocaine offenses, among other reforms.
Amendments to keep the new sentencing minimums from being applied retroactively or to firearms offenders were defeated. While the legislation would not automatically reduce sentences for those already behind bars, it would give judges discretion to release them from prison on a case-by-case basis. The bill has strong bipartisan support, but the number of big legislative items left to be dealt with this year and the shrinking number of legislative days in which to deal with them means the future of the bill remains uncertain.