Jeff Sessions and 'tough-on-crime' Republicans fight prison sentencing reform


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The U.S. Congress is attempting to reduce how long nonviolent criminals remain in prison. With the largest prison population in the world, there is bipartisan support in the country for sentencing reform. These efforts, however, frequently fail because of Republican leaders who believe that releasing prisoners earlier will lead to a spike in crime.

The Senate Judiciary Committee passed the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act for the second time in the past three years. The legislation was approved in committee in 2015, but failed to receive a vote on the Senate floor.

Similar to in 2015, the reform package is opposed by “tough-on-crime” Republicans who see strict sentencing laws as necessary to preserve public safety. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has led the charge against the bill, saying it “would be a grave error” in a letter to the committee (The Hill). 

This bill would:

  • End “three strikes you’re out”: Those caught with drugs three times in the U.S. would no longer be subject to a mandatory minimum of 10 years in prison.
  • Allows Fair Sentencing Act to be applied retroactively: Non-violent criminals, sentenced under previous harsh crack cocaine policies, to petition to have their sentence commuted.
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