It’s not every day that Republicans and Democrats come together to unveil positive change in the criminal justice system. But just last month, a bipartisan group of legislators announced what amounts to a criminal justice overhaul. Through legislation that reduces prison sentences for non-violent drug offenders and by allowing judges greater discretion in sentencing offenders, this legislation promises to reduce overcrowding in prisons, give some non-violent offenders less severe punishments, and save taxpayer dollars.
At Hessler Law, our experienced criminal defense attorneys in Indianapolis have seen countless cases of non-violent drug offenders who are facing months or years of incarceration for their non-violent drug crime. We’re glad to see bipartisan support for legislation that could reduce incarceration times and give judges greater freedom in their sentencing. Though the bill is far from perfect, it’s a step in the right direction toward improving the nation’s criminal justice system.
Bill Reduces Prison Sentences and Gives Judges Greater Freedom
The main features of the bill, a revised version of which was unveiled last month, include reduced prison sentences for non-violent drug offenders, greater discretion for judges in determining sentencing, and programs for helping offenders to re-enter society.
- Reduced prison sentences — For non-violent, drug-related crimes, certain sentences would be reduced and the mandatory life sentences for three-time, nonviolent drug offenders would be eliminated.
- Greater discretion for judges — Judges would be granted greater freedom in determining how to sentence an offender, and would also be allowed to give lesser sentences than federally mandated minimum sentences, in certain cases.
- Re-entry programs for offenders — Re-entry would provide training and resources for non-violent offenders and help prisoners to re-enter society.
This legislation has gone through multiple iterations with the most recent version addressing concerns that it could allow violent offenders to be let out of prison early. To prevent this from occurring, the legislation has been revised to preclude allowing reduced sentences for offenders who had possessed a firearm. Still, some argue such measures don’t go far enough toward preventing criminals from committing violence in the future.
Pros and Cons of the Bill—Addressing Mass Incarceration at the Expense of Safety?
Those in favor of the proposed legislation see it as step toward addressing a crisis of mass incarceration in the country. In the past 30 years, federal prisons have expanded to eight times their size in. Overcrowding and poor prison conditions are just two side effects of an overextended national prison system. This legislation would address the crisis. At the same, it would provide non-violent offenders with a second chance, outside of prison, and save taxpayers dollars in the process.
Those against the bill are concerned that it doesn’t go far enough in preventing violent criminals from avoiding incarceration. They worry that possession of a firearm isn’t a comprehensive enough criteria for determining whether an offender has a potential for violence. Furthermore, they argue that federal mandatory minimums should be respected, not lessened.
How the Experienced Criminal Defense Attorneys in Indianapolis Can Help You
At Hessler Law, we’ve helped numerous individuals who were facing drug-related charges. Whether it be a DUI, possession of a controlled sentence, or a drug trafficking charge, our skilled criminal defense attorneys in Indianapolis have seen it all. We’re encouraged by this bill but recognize that nonviolent, drug offenders will still be facing harsh penalties and the possibility of incarceration in the future. If you’ve been charged with a drug-related offense and are seeking representation, call us at (317) 886-8800 for a free, initial consultation today.