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Washington, DC — A new report by Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM) and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) argues sentencing discretion for nonviolent and drug offenses can ease prison overcrowding, save tax dollars, and protect public safety. The new report, Mandatory Minimum Sentencing Reform Saves States Money and Reduces Crime Rates, released today, argues that inflexible sentencing laws jeopardize public safety, and recommends states adopt “safety valves,” which allow sentencing courts to depart from mandatory minimum sentences.
Specifically, the report discusses ALEC’s Justice Safety Valve Act, a model policy that allows sentencing courts to depart from mandatory minimums for low-level offenders who meet specific criteria. In addition to showing how safety valves work in practice, the report highlights several states that have passed versions of the model policy.
“Mandatory minimums create negative unintended consequences, including locking up offenders who might be better off with an alternative sanction,” said Greg Newburn, report author and FAMM’s State Policy Director. “Safety valves allow sentencing courts to consider all of the relevant circumstances and impose an appropriate sentence. Evidence has shown safety valves reduce incarceration rates, save states money, and, most importantly, keep the public safe,” Newburn said.
“Public safety is the primary goal, but imposing mandatory minimum sentencing to nonviolent, low-risk offenders is inefficient and counterproductive to providing safety to taxpayers,” said Ronnie Lampard, Director of the ALEC Task Force on Criminal Justice Reform. “By saving space in prisons for violent offenders and repeat offenders, states can reduce costs and also optimize safety in their communities,” Lampard added.
The new report was endorsed by several leading conservatives, including Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist and Koch Industries General Counsel Mark Holden, among others. “Experience has taught us that simply locking up low level offenders for decades is not the best way to reduce crime. By passing reforms such as the safety valve, states can focus their resources on programs that actually reduce recidivism and reduce crime,” Norquist said.
To see all of the endorsements and for more information on the report and safety valve, visit famm.org