The long wait on reducing sentences for nonviolent drug crimes may end when Congress reconvenes next month.
U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) has been pushing legislation on sentencing reform for years, but says now negotiations between Republicans and Democrats are close to bringing compromise legislation to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Durbin’s own Smarter Sentencing Act gives judges more leeway to hand out sentences below mandatory minimums, but has never been brought to a vote on the Senate floor. While he expects the compromise bill won’t go as far as his proposal, he believes it will be an improvement over current sentencing laws.
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“Any good idea takes a while,” Durbin said. “I believe we’re within weeks of announcing a bipartisan bill in the Senate. It’s not all I want. In fact, part of it I don’t like at all, but it’s the nature of a compromise that we can move forward.”
State government politicians from both parties, including Gov. Bruce Rauner, have publicly backed similar efforts at criminal justice reform. Durbin hopes after federal legislation is enacted, other states will follow suit, with the end result being a reduction in the nation’s ballooning prison population.