Four months ago, Senators Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) introduced a bill that, if passed, would reform sentencing guidelines for people charged with nonviolent drug crimes. Today (January 15), the Senate Committee on the Judiciary is debating the bill.
As Colorlines reported:
It seeks to [reform the system] by reducing the length of mandatory minimum sentences and discarding the three strikes rule that locks up repeat offenders for life. But it seeks to increase some other sentences, including adding a mandatory minimum for domestic abusers who cross state lines, people who export weapons to terrorists and blacklisted countries, and people who deal fentanyl laced with heroin.
The debate does not come without controversy. Yesterday (February 14), Attorney General Jeff Sessions sent a letter to Grassley discouraging the committee from moving forward with the bill, calling it a “grave mistake.” In 2017, Sessions instructed federal prosecutors to pursue mandatory minimums, which keep Black and Latinx people behind bars at disproportionate rates.
Per The Washington Post, Sessions went on to say:
This legislation would reduce sentences for a highly dangerous cohort of criminals, including repeat dangerous drug traffickers and those who use firearms, and would apply retroactively to many dangerous felons, regardless of citizenship or immigration status.
Grassley responded on Twitter, reminding Sessions that it is not his place to make laws.
Incensed by Sessions letter An attempt to undermine Grassley/Durbin/Lee BIPARTISAN criminal justice reforms This bill deserves thoughtful consideration b4 my cmte. AGs execute laws CONGRESS WRITES THEM!— ChuckGrassley (@ChuckGrassley) February 14, 2018
The committee meeting started at 10 a.m. EST with votes on potential judges who are nominated to take the bench, and will transition into debate on the bill around 11. Head over to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary’s website to watch.