Drug Sentencing Revision Under Consideration in U.S. House of Representatives
Ohio has the troubling distinction of ranking fourth among all 50 states in terms of severity of prison overcapacity, according to the recent U.S. Department of Justice report, Prisoners in 2013. More than one of every four incarcerations is for drug offenses and, of these offenses, roughly half are simply for possession, a non-violent crime.
Those interested in seeing federal and Ohio prison systems’ overcrowding ameliorated and drug policies further modernized and humanized should follow the progress of U.S. House Bill 2944. It was introduced June 25, 2015, by former House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner (R-Wisconsin) and Education and Workforce Committee Ranking Member Bobby Scott (D-Virginia).
Federal initiatives like this bipartisan one do have impact on state governments’ law enforcement and judicial thinking; this proposed legislation could have impact down the road in Ohio. A two-page summary shows the bill’s main features, among which are:
- Limiting application of federal mandatory minimum drug sentencing.
- Sizably expanding existing “safety valves” allowing courts to resort to imprisonment less often, especially in less serious, drug-related cases.
- Reducing necessity for long prison sentences for second-offense drug cases and life sentences for third-time drug offenders.
- Expanding compassionate release and elderly prisoner release programs.
At present H.R. 2944 is under initial congressional committee study prior to movement to the U.S. House of Representatives.