Moving away from mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenders is the goal of federal legislation being reintroduced by U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.). Durbin is giving his “Smarter Sentencing Act” another try, and while the makeup of Congress has shifted towards Republicans, Durbin notes some of his usual opponents are partners with him on this legislation.
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“Let me just start off with a challenge to the press and everyone in attendance: try to find a more diverse political group gathered in one place in the history of the United States Congress,” Durbin said at a news conference Thursday in Washington.
Among the co-sponsors of the legislation are conservatives like U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Mike Lee (R-Utah).
The bill allows judges greater discretion on sentencing certain non-violent drug offenders, instead of having to adhere to minimum requirements. Durbin says when those policies were passed decades ago, lawmakers were afraid of being seen as “soft on crime.” The result, according to Durbin, has a sharp increase in the federal prison population.