This press release from the office of Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL and then-assistant-majority-leader) gives some pointed details about the Smarter Sentencing Act. Its tagline states the intent of the bill like this:
“[The] Bill Modernizes Drug Sentencing Policy, Focuses Resources on Violent Offenders and Public Safety Risks, Promotes Consistency with Fair Sentencing Act”
The press release gets started this way:
“With federal prison populations skyrocketing and nearly half of the nation’s federal inmates serving sentences for drug offenses, Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL), Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) have introduced the Smarter Sentencing Act, to modernize our drug sentencing polices by giving federal judges more discretion in sentencing those convicted of non-violent offenses. Making these incremental and targeted changes could save taxpayers billions in the first years of enactment.
“Mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent drug offenses have played a huge role in the explosion of the U.S. prison population,” Durbin said. “Once seen as a strong deterrent, these mandatory sentences have too often been unfair, fiscally irresponsible and a threat to public safety. Given tight budgets and overcrowded prison cells, judges should be given the authority to conduct an individualized review in sentencing certain drug offenders and not be bound to outdated laws that have proven not to work and cost taxpayers billions.”
It seems this bill is a sort of reboot of another sentence reform bill introduced by Senators Patrick Leahy and Rand Paul, which would give sentencing judges discretion on imposing mandatory minimums.
It is currently unclear if these bills will be competing or complimentary (symbiotic, so to speak) with/to each other. The good news, if it can be called that, is that lawmakers are seeing that balooning prison populations which consist of many non-violent crimes is getting noticed as a prime place to reduce budgetary spending.