States Continue to Lead Way on Mandatory Minimum Reform | FAMM

News

States Continue to Lead Way on Mandatory Minimum Reform

Categories: Featured, Newsroom, Press Release, Safety Valve

FAMM President Urges Congress to Follow Suit

MEDIA CONTACT: Mike Riggs, 202-822-6706, mriggs@famm.org

WASHINGTON, D.C.  — FAMM President Julie Stewart called on Congress today to follow the lead of several states moving forward with commonsense reforms to their ineffective and costly mandatory minimum sentencing laws. Legislative proposals to reform mandatory sentencing laws have advanced most recently through the legislatures in Oklahoma, Nebraska, and Maryland.

“There’s been a lot of talk in Congress about passing sentencing reform, but we need action,” said Stewart. “As is often the case, while Washington fiddles, the states churn. A handful of states, including red states, have passed or are on the cusp of passing smart changes to eliminate the worst injustices caused by mandatory minimum laws.”

In March 2013, FAMM released “Turning Off the Spigot: How Sentencing Safety Valves Can Help States Protect Public Safety and Save Money.” The report details how some states have embraced sentencing safety valves as a way of reducing prison populations and saving money, while at the same time protecting public safety. We distributed the report to state lawmakers across the nation.

FAMM also worked closely with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a group of right-leaning state lawmakers from around the country. In August 2013, ALEC endorsed a state sentencing safety valve, similar to the federal proposal, which would authorize judges to depart from mandatory sentences in many cases. 

These efforts have borne fruit. In April 2013, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal signed a new law that models the federal drug safety valve and allow judges to issue below-minimum sentences for low level, nonviolent, first-time offenders.  

Stewart said she was excited that more states are joining the action. “Over the past couple of weeks, safety valve proposals have moved through the Oklahoma and Maryland legislatures. Another bill to scale back mandatory minimum sentences has advanced in Nebraska,” Stewart said. “This progress shows that state lawmakers from red and blue states understand that mandatory minimums do more harm than good. Lawmakers are putting public safety and common sense ahead of ideology. We couldn’t be more thrilled.”