Move toward smarter sentencing for drugs

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Congress is making a welcomed major step forward in drug sentencing reform.

The Senate Judiciary Committee recently approved the Smarter Sentencing Act, a measure that would cut the mandatory minimum sentence in half for some drug offenses and expand the category of defendants eligible for sentencing below the mandatory minimums.

The measure would also make retroactive the provisions of the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010. It would also reduce by half the length of mandatory minimum drug sentences.

The legislation has rare bipartisan support. It was introduced by Sen. Richard Durbin, a Democrat from Illinois, and Sen. Mike Lee, a Republican from Utah.

The Smart Sentencing Act is needed because it would reduce excessive, expensive, unnecessary and in many cases, counterproductive incarcerations which studies have shown have had a detrimental effect on African Americans and Hispanics, even though others show drug usage is about the same between whites and minorities.

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