One federal lawmaker, Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, claims that the Department of Justice is spending too much on prisons. Leahy has spent considerable time and effort on reform, specifically prison overcrowding and sentencing, and has worked on two significant bills known as the Justice Safety Valve Act and the Smarter Sentencing Act.
The Justice Safety Valve Act would allow federal judges to impose sentences below the mandatory minimums in some cases and the Smarter Sentencing Act would help those convicted of some crack cocaine offenses to revise their sentences in some situations.
As Jeffrey Benzing with Main Justice reports, Leahy has recently criticized prison overcrowding. Citing Leahy: “If we fail to address our burgeoning prison population, we’re going to be cutting the very programs that keep us safe,” referring to the roughly $27 billion the DOJ has requested for 2015 for its prison budget.
It’s not too hard to put two and two together.
Leahy doesn’t appear to believe that it’s worth locking people up for lower-level nonviolent offenses involving drugs, especially crack cocaine, which has historically been punished more harshly than powder cocaine.
Leahy’s measures would put the focus on proactive law enforcement rather than “warehousing” people for nonviolent offenses, as well as providing resources to prevent recidivism and helping people re-enter society after prison.