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Monday, April 21, 2014

Sentencing Commission Recommends Shorter Prison Sentences

There are many who feel that it is time to do something about America’s overcrowded prisons. The United States' war on drugs has been the leading cause of overcrowding which has led the U.S. Sentencing Commission to recommend shorter prison sentences for most federal drug trafficking offenders, according to Reuters. If Congress does not oppose the recommendation it could lead to a huge reduction in prison populations in the years to come.

The new recommendation follows in the wake of U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder’s testimony in favor of reducing the average sentence for drug dealers. 

Holder informed the Sentencing Commission that the Obama Administration supports changing guidelines to reduce the average drug sentence by about one year, from 62 months to 51 months. This small change in sentencing guidelines would reduce the federal prison population by about 6,550 inmates over the next five years, the article notes.

As of now, half of the 215,000 federal inmates are serving time for drug crimes. 

“This modest reduction in drug penalties is an important step toward reducing the problem of prison overcrowding at the federal level in a proportionate and fair manner,” Commission Chair Judge Patti B. Saris said in a news release. “Reducing the federal prison population has become urgent, with that population almost three times where it was in 1991.”

If Congress goes along with the recommendation, the new rules will go into effect on November 1, the article notes.

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