The Smarter Sentencing Act of 2015
Reform is on its way for the criminal justice system. Judges, prosecutors, and police officials are pushing toward greater change in federal sentencing and overhauling and cutting mandatory minimums for drug offenses. The fear is that drug offense punishments, more so than any other crime, are not only extremely harsh on the offenders, but disproportionately target minorities. Many of these low-level offenders receive significant sentences where the crime is a non-violent offense. In addition, most of these low-level offenders are actually just dealers and messengers with little to no high-ranking role within the operation. Of the 22,000 drug-related offenders sentenced in 2014, only 7 percent of that number had significant pull over the operation and were leaders such as kingpins, exporters and major dealers; 84 percent of the low-level street dealers did not carry a weapon or any type of arm.
Smarter Sentencing Act of 2015: The Major Reform
The major reform, known as the Smarter Sentencing Act of 2015, is motivated by the incredible amount of spending going to maintaining prisons, and also the lack of capacity currently seen in our prisons. Spending has increased by 1,100 percent in the last 30 years; most federal prisons are above capacity by almost 128 percent. There is not enough money and space to deal with the increasing number of drug-related offenders who are serving significant sentences for their acts.
The Smarter Sentencing Act of 2015 comes at the heels of a major reform passed in 2010, known as the Fair Sentencing Act, which was passed by Congress to deal with the disparity in sentences between drug-related offenses dealing with crack cocaine and powder cocaine.
The Fair Sentencing Act of 2010
The Fair Sentencing Act was Congress’s attempt to equalize and balance the system that was punishing minorities, mainly the black community, with harsher sentences for a smaller amount of crack cocaine than powder cocaine. Crack cocaine is a cheaper version of the powder cocaine, with the disparity in sentencing affecting the minority communities; it was estimated that 80 percent of crack charges were brought against black dealers. In the sentence for crack cocaine before 2010 was at least five years for 5 grams and 10 years for 10 grams for crack cocaine, whereas the threshold for powder cocaine was 28 grams for 5 years and 280 grams for 10 years. Clearly the disparity is evident. The change in sentencing was predicted to have the effect of saving the federal prison system, over 5 years, almost $42 million.
The Smarter Sentencing Act: Improvements to the System
The Smarter Sentencing Act is suggesting a few things to improve costs within the federal prison system and more fairly sentence drug-offenders:
- Keep more expensive prison beds for more dangerous offenders who are staying longer.
- Permit 8,800 federal prisoners to return to court for a reevaluation of their sentences for crimes they committed that are crack cocaine-related. This will have the effect of reducing racial injustice as of the 8,800 federal prisoners, 87 percent are black. Sentence reduction may help return many inmates home faster who are not a danger to public safety and right the injustice of the pre-2010 crack cocaine-powder cocaine sentencing disparities.
- Reduce mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent, drug-related offenses. No reduction will occur for offenses that are violent, sexually violent, or are related to guns.
Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney in Fort Lauderdale
If you or a loved one has been arrested for a criminal offense, It is important to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney like Kevin J. Kulik. Contact Kevin J. Kulik today for a free and confidential consultation in the Fort Lauderdale area.