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NACDL News: Bipartisan Reform Legislation On Mandatory Minimum Sentencing Introduced
By Ivan J. Dominguez and Isaac Kramer
NACDL News columns.
On March 20, Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Rand Paul (R-KY) introduced the Justice Safety Valve Act of 2013 (S. 619). If enacted, this legislation would restore essential judicial discretion to permit a sentence below harsh and inflexible statutory minimums based upon the court’s assessment of the particular facts and circumstances of the case and the offender. The expanded safety valve would apply to all federal offenders facing mandatory minimum sentences for any crime. Its purpose would be to prevent the kind of unjust and irrational criminal punishments the nation has witnessed under the ever-expanding mandatory minimum sentencing regime of the last few decades. Some 26 percent of the Department of Justice 2013 budget request (according to DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz) is being consumed by the escalating federal prison budget, which includes an estimated annual cost of about $28,000 for each prisoner housed in the BOP’s overcrowded facilities.