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As one of our more than 6.9 million FreedomWorks members nationwide, I urge you to contact your representative today and ask him or her to support Representative Bob Goodlatte’s Sentencing Reform Act, “to reform sentencing laws, and for other purposes,” and to co-sponsor the bill if they have not already done so.
Since 1980, the federal prison population has skyrocketed by nearly 800 percent. As a result of this surge, the costs of incarceration have soared out of control. Non-violent offenders, who represent 60 percent of all federal inmates, are being warehoused in federal prisons due to unnecessarily long minimum prison sentences, and they are taking up space and money that should be reserved for violent offenders. The status quo is simply unsustainable because it costs far too much and makes our communities less safe.
The Sentencing Reform Act is contains provisions that are similar to those found in Representative Raul Labrador and Senator Mike Lee’s Smarter Sentencing Act, for which FreedomWorks released a letter of support. The bill tackles sentencing reform in a meaningful way. It expands the existing federal “safety valve” exception to mandatory minimum sentences for low-level, non-violent offenders with little to no criminal history and creates a second “safety valve” that would allow sentences under a 10-year minimum for similarly eligible offenders.
The bill also includes a provision that would make the benefits of the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 retroactive. This law, which passed Congress in 2010 without opposition, reduced the severe sentencing disparity between crack cocaine and powdered cocaine from a 100-to-1 ratio to 18-to-1. Retroactivity would not be automatic and applies to offenders who meet certain criteria. Importantly, those who do apply for retroactivity would be subject to review by federal prosecutors and judges before receiving a reduced sentence.
The Sentencing Reform Act clarifies congressional intent for enhanced mandatory minimums related to gun crime by applying them solely to repeat offenders and expands application of enhancements to prior offenses committed under state jurisdiction. These provisions would apply retroactively, though not automatically, to offenders who meet applicable criteria. Those eligible for resentencing are subject to review by federal judges and prosecutors.
The Sentencing Reform Act is a common sense approach, one that is similar to steps taken in conservative states, including Georgia and Oklahoma. FreedomWorks views this bill as a good first step and hopes to see other bills come out of the House Judiciary Committee that will address prison reform, prisoner re-entry, over-criminalization, and civil asset forfeiture reform.
I hope you’ll contact your representative and urge them to support and co-sponsor the Sentencing Reform Act, H.R. 3713.
Adam Brandon, CEO, FreedomWorks