The Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 was a critical step for mandatory minimum reform. Now, new legislation would make further improvements to eliminate harsh and unfair sentencing for certain crimes.
Two bills, introduced by Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.), an advocate for sentencing reform, would take the next logical steps to improve sentencing in the United States.
Understanding the proposed legislation:
- The Fair Sentencing Clarification Act (H.R. 1252)
This legislation would make The Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 retroactive. This means that federal prisons who were sentenced before the act could still reap the benefits of the reform if their cases meet the right specifications.
- The Fairness in Cocaine Sentencing Act (H.R. 1255)
This bill would dissolve the discrepancy between penalties for powder and cocaine sentencing. In other words, equal amounts of each drug would prompt the same legal penalties.
Man Serves 55-Year Sentence for Non-Violent Marijuana Crime
In an interview with ABC News, a former federal judge told reports that he regrets giving a 24-year-old defendant a 55-year sentence for marijuana sales.
He said, "That wasn't the right thing to do. The system forced me to do it."
The defendant was arrested for dealing marijuana when law enforcement set up multiple sting operations with the help of an informant. During the proceedings, the informant made a claim that changed the case: The defendant had a gun.
"A mandatory minimum is a sentence that says a judge has to impose a particular minimum number of years," said the judge who handled the case. In this situation, the presence of a gun necessitated a 55-year mandatory minimum sentence.
Raising Awareness for Mandatory Minimum Sentencing Reform
While sentence reform is moving in the right direction, the vast majority of Americans remain unaware of the unreasonable prison sentences that exist for many crimes in the United States.
Until you face the possibility of years in prison, it is easy to ignore the harsh penalties the U.S. justice system imposes on citizens. Many Americans are realizing that its time for reform in this country, not just at the federal level, but the state levels as well.