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Numerous proposals in Congress, the Justice Department, and the Sentencing Commission would bring down the sentences now given to those convicted of federal drug offenses. Probably the most prominent of these is the proposed Smarter Sentencing Act, which was passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee with the support of all its Democratic members and several Republicans. The act would, among other things, reduce the mandatory minimum sentences judges must now give certain classes of drug offenders and would expand the existing Safety Valve that has enabled some defendants to avoid the mandatory minimum.
Proponents of the Smarter Sentencing Act say that our prisons are overcrowded and that the pendulum has swung too far in terms of mandatory minimum penalties for non-violent drug offenders. Opponents say that stern mandatory sentencing has helped bring down crime, reined in irrational disparities from one courtroom to the next, insured at least a rock-bottom sentence for socially destructive behavior, and has been more than worth the expense through the savings reduced crime has brought about.
- John G. Malcolm, Director and Ed Gilbertson and Sherry Lindberg Gilbertson Senior Legal Fellow, Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies, The Heritage Foundation
- Prof. William G. Otis, Adjunct Professor of Law, Georgetown University Law Center