Senate Judiciary Committee Approves the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act

Post Date: October 22, 2015

FAMM Applauds U.S. Senate Committee Passage of Sentencing Reform Bill

Contact: Mike Riggs,

WASHINGTON, DC — FAMM President Julie Stewart today said that the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee’s overwhelming bipartisan support for a federal sentencing and prison reform bill increases the likelihood that important mandatory minimum sentencing reforms will become law. The bill, S. 2123, The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, was approved by a bipartisan vote of 15 to 5.

“We have argued for years that our federal mandatory minimum sentencing laws unfairly punish low-level offenders without making the public any safer,” said Stewart. “Today, Senators from across the political spectrum made it clear that they agree. Today’s vote begins the process of undoing these costly and counterproductive laws.”

Specifically, the bill includes provisions to:

  • Reduce the mandatory life without parole sentence for a third drug offense to a mandatory minimum term of 25 years in prison (retroactive);
  • Reduce the mandatory minimum 20-year sentence for a second drug offense to a mandatory minimum term of 15 years in prison (retroactive);
  • Narrowly define which prior offenses can trigger longer mandatory minimum drug sentences;
  • Make the Fair Sentencing Act (FSA) of 2010 retroactive, allowing approximately 5,300 crack cocaine offenders sentenced before August 3, 2010, to seek sentences in line with that law’s reforms to the 100-to-one disparity between crack and powder cocaine mandatory minimum sentences;
  • Expand the drug “safety valve” exception so that nonviolent drug offenders with non-serious criminal histories can receive sentences below the mandatory minimum term (not retroactive);
  • Reduce the 15-year mandatory minimum sentence for certain gun possession offenses by people with criminal records to a mandatory minimum term of 10 years (retroactive);
  • Reduce the 25-year mandatory minimum sentence for those who commit multiple offenses of possessing guns in the course of drug trafficking offenses to a mandatory minimum term of 15 years (retroactive), and apply that penalty to people with prior violent state convictions; and
  • Allow some categories of federal prisoners to earn time credits for completing rehabilitative programs and “cash in” those time credits at the end of their sentences for a transfer to a different type of supervision, such as a halfway house.

The bill also establishes new mandatory minimum sentences of 10 years for interstate domestic violence resulting in a death and five years for providing certain weapons or aid to terrorists.

“The new mandatory minimums in the bill are gratuitous. They represent the last throes of a stubborn and mistaken ideological commitment. In fact, the only good thing that can be said for them is that they will almost never be used,” said Stewart.