On January 30, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 13-5 to approve the Smarter Sentencing Act of 2013 (S. 1410), sending it out for a vote of the full Senate. This bill amends the current federal mandatory minimum sentencing structure by increasing judicial discretion during sentencing. It would reduce the mandatory minimum sentence for non-violent drug offenses while maintaining the current mandatory minimums for violent drug crimes.
Supporters of the legislation believe it will reduce prison overcrowding, increase the fairness of sentencing for non-violent drug offenses and ease the financial burden extensive prison terms have had on the United States criminal justice system. The money that this bill would save the prison system is intended to go towards crime prevention and recidivism reduction tactics and an increased police presence.
During the markup, Senator Durbin (D-IL), one of the bill’s original sponsors, referenced a letter organized by TCP that included the support of more than 100 prominent individuals, including former prosecutors and judges, for the passage of this bill. The 13 votes in-favor of the bill’s passage included those of Republican Senators Lee (UT), Cruz (TX) and Flake (AZ) in addition to those of the Committee’s Democratic members. Before the bill was put to a vote, Senator Cruz asked to be added to the bipartisan list of co-sponsors.
TCP applauds the commitment of those in Congress to improving existing sentencing structures to ensure the fairer administration of justice. In addition to the Smarter Sentencing Act, TCP also supports passage of the Justice Safety Valve Act.