Will Relaxed Drug Laws Ease Prison Numbers?
By James Donahue
more and more states move to legalize marijuana use for medical and even recreational use, the pressure is being felt on state
and national levels to ease mandatory prison terms for convicted drug offenders.
The U. S. Sentencing Commission, the federal agency that sets mandatory sentencing policies for judges, has agreed
to allow tens of thousands of inmates serving time for drug crimes to apply for reduced sentences.
A story that appeared last week in Al Jazeera said all seven commission
members voted unanimously to set the stage for a massive easing of prison overcrowding by reducing the sentencing terms for
prisoners serving time on narcotics charges.
the changing public attitude about marijuana use wasn’t singled out in the report, it is well known that most offenders
are serving time for either growing or distributing quantities of cannabis.
The story noted that the commission decision followed a 2007 study of inmates serving time for crack cocaine charges
that were released early. The study found that these people posed no greater risk of repetition than those that served their
The proposal for sentence reductions
is a result of a growing wave of bipartisan support for criminal justice reform within the Obama Administration, the story
said. President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder have both supported new policies that reduce the harsh sentencing guidelines
for low-level, non-violent drug offenders who currently make up a large part of the federal prison population.
Congress can still vote to kill the commission’s decision. Members
have until November 1 to vote to block the plan. If Congress decides to let the new rules stand, judges can then begin considering
individual petitions for sentence reductions.
special rule in the plan, however, prohibits the release of any prisoners until November 1, 2015.
At least it appears to be a step in the right direction.