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Senators: Federal sentencing too often irrational, unjust

Here's an interesting statistic that might cause more than a few readers to reflect on federal crime policies and their attendant costs for taxpayers: According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), budget outlays for inmate upkeep and infrastructure maintenance in the federal prison system totaled nearly $7 billion last year.

That is merely one reason, say a growing number of critics of the system, to reappraise certain aspects of penal policies and pull back hard on costs. The outlays are simply exorbitant and constantly growing. A recent government report indicates that BOP-operated prisons are currently 48 percent over capacity and getting ever-more crowded. It is estimated that they will be a full 45 percent beyond capacity by 2018.

And thus, there is strong consensus across broadly bipartisan lines that constructive change needs to be forthcoming, and fast.

The Justice Safety Valve Act is a recent legislative attempt to address the problem by curbing what many critics feel is irrationality and unfairness marked by mandatory minimum sentencing for federal crimes. The bill is not yet law, having been just recently introduced for congressional scrutiny, but it has broad support and likely will be enacted in some form.

The Act was introduced by two senators, Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Rand Paul (R-KY). Their strong view is that many sentences handed out to defendants under mandatory minimum sentencing are far too harsh and not conducive to reducing crimes, especially when those serving them are incarcerated on comparatively minor drug charges and other crimes where violence was not involved.

Leahy endorses the complete elimination of both federal and state mandatory minimum laws.

Source: Huffington Post, "Justice Safety Valve Act would give flexibility on mandatory minimum sentences," Nick Wing, March 20, 2013

  • A person charged with a federal crime has a strong need for legal advocacy based on thorough knowledge of the criminal charge and proven experience with federal court procedures and sentencing guidelines. We invite readers to visit our St. Louis, Missouri, Federal Criminal Defense page for further information.

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