May 1

Bipartisan Support in U.S. Senate for Criminal Justice Overhaul Bill

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Last week, a bipartisan group of senators introduced reworked legislation that would grant judges greater discretion in sentencing and allow some nonviolent drug offenders to receive reduced prison sentences. This legislation previously stalled when conservatives in the Senate suggested it might inadvertently let more violent offenders out of prison, but the bill’s sponsors hope the revamped version of the bill will pass, given its broad bipartisan support in the Senate and backing from President Obama.

To address the concerns of the bill’s opponents about violent criminals, the reworked bill dropped previous language that might have allowed criminals who had possessed a firearm to get reduced sentences. In addition, language was added to prohibit retroactive sentence reductions for violent felons and establish stronger sentences for offenses involving the opioid fentanyl. So far, the bill’s backers say they have picked up the additional support of 4 more Republican senators, and now have a total of 37 sponsors, which they hope will be enough to allow the bill to move forward.

The bill is part of a larger movement at state and federal levels to reduce overcrowding in prisons and harsh sentencing on non-violent crime.