Bipartisan Alliances for Sentencing Reform

Post Date: November 1, 2013

Rep. Bobby Scott

Rep. Bobby Scott

(National Journal) — The current political climate has led to all sorts of strange outcomes, such as a government shutdown. But it’s also created strange bedfellows, and perhaps nowhere is this more evident than in alliances formed over reforming mandatory prison sentences.

A bill reducing mandatory minimum sentencing in certain nonviolent drug cases introduced this week by Reps. Bobby Scott, D-Va., and Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, speaks to the coalition-building among the Left and the Right. It mirrors a bill introduced by Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Mike Lee, R-Utah. The bill has received backing from groups as diverse as Heritage Action, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the NAACP.

A Senate committee held a hearing September on another measure from Sen.Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., which would give judges greater flexibility in departing from mandatory minimums when they sentence those convicted of federal crimes.

Rep. Raul Labrador

Rep. Raul Labrador

“That hearing was really illustrative of where we’re at—you had a hearing called by a Democratic chair and you had three Republican witnesses on the panel, and essentially, at one point or another, all three witnesses are essentially saying the same thing,” said Molly Gill, legislative counsel for Families Against Mandatory Minimums. Read more