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Prison Legislation & Laws Discuss and learn about pending legislation or changes in laws that affect various prisons and institutions

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Old 09-30-2011, 08:32 PM
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Post Families Against Mandatory Minimums... Information

Here are other initiatives that affect mandatory minimums FAMM is involved with. Here's a roundup of the sentencing bills that are heating up. None of the bills listed below are retroactive. None of the bills listed below passed.

Every session, members of Congress offer up bills that carry new mandatory minimums, hoping to get tough on whatever crime is in the news at the moment. This year is no different. At the same time, others in Congress are working to provide sentencing relief by introducing sentencing reform bills and speaking out loudly about the problems caused by inflexible mandatory minimums.


924(c) offenses
On June 24, Representative Robert Bobby Scott (D-Va.) introduced legislation to clarify a sentencing law that results in overly harsh sentences for some gun offenses. H.R. 2398, the Firearm Recidivist Sentencing Act of 2011, would amend 18 U.S.C.to ensure that individuals who carry a firearm while committing a violent crime or drug trafficking offense face the 25-year mandatory minimum for repeat offenses only if they have been previously convicted and served a sentence for a 924(c) offense.
The repeat offender mandatory minimum currently includes a five-year mandatory minimum sentence for carrying a firearm while committing a violent crime or drug trafficking offense; a seven-year mandatory minimum sentence for brandishing the firearm during the offense; a 10-year mandatory minimum for discharging the firearm during the offense; and a 25-year mandatory minimum for repeat offenses.
Furthermore, because the 924(c) sentence must be served consecutively to the sentence for the underlying offense and any other 924(c)sentence imposed, the ultimate sentence length can be greatly increased, often far beyond what the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines would recommend.
H.R. 2398 would ensure that the penalty captures only true recidivists, by requiring that a previous conviction must be final before the 25-year mandatory minimum may be sought.
Like other reform bills, this bill has a long road to travel. It has to go through House and Senate judiciary committees and receive a vote by both the full House and the Senate. Each Congress sees as many as 10,000 to 14,000 bills are introduced, of which only around 2,000 ever become law.
Bipartisan call to give states the right to regulate marijuana use
Introduced by Reps. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), Ron Paul (R-Texas) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) on June 23, H.R. 2306, the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2011, would remove marijuana from the list of federally controlled substances while allowing states to decide how they will regulate it. The bill would limit the federal governments role in marijuana enforcement largely to cross-border or inter-state smuggling. In doing so, the bill would eliminate federal mandatory minimum sentences for purely intrastate marijuana offenses. The bill maintains federal penalties, including mandatory minimums, and fines for shipping or transporting marijuana across district, state, territorial or national borders.
Like other reform bills, this bill has a long road to travel. It has to go through House and Senate judiciary committees and receive a vote by both the full House and the Senate. Each Congress sees as many as 10,000 to 14,000 bills are introduced, of which only around 2,000 ever become law.
Proposal to remove all drug mandatory minimums
On June 22, Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) introduced H.R. 2303, the Major Drug Trafficking Prosecution Act of 2011. The bill would eliminate all mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses; curb federal prosecutions of low-level drug offenders; and allow courts to place offenders on probation or suspend their sentence.
In a speech on the bill, Congresswoman Waters issued a powerful call to action, one that FAMM echoes, We now have the opportunity to identify some consensus priorities regarding the changes needed in our federal sentencing policy, including mandatory minimums. It is time to take the message to the White House, to the Republican leadership, and across the States.
Like other reform bills, this bill has a long road to travel. It has to go through House and Senate judiciary committees and receive a vote by both the full House and the Senate. Each Congress sees as many as 10,000 to 14,000 bills are introduced, of which only around 2,000 ever become law.
Cyber security

In May, the Obama Administration unveiled a complex new package of proposals designed to strengthen cyber security, the security of the computers and computer infrastructures used to govern and protect America. One of the bills includes a new three-year mandatory minimum for anyone who knowingly causes or attempts to cause major damage to these critical computers or infrastructures.

Although the need to protect our nations critical infrastructure in the digital world is great, mandatory minimums are never a good idea. FAMM made that argument in testimony submitted to the Senate Judiciary Committee on September 7, telling lawmakers that mandatory minimums are the wrong approach. We were also joined by more than two dozen organizations in a letter to the committee requesting that they reject any effort to add new mandatory sentences to the cyber security bill.

At the hearing, Judiciary Chairman Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) noted his strong opposition to mandatory minimums, stating I do not intend to include it in the bill. I want strong penalties, but the mandatory minimum is something that I worry it can be abused. FAMM was later pleased to learn that the Administration was no longer pushing for the inclusion of the mandatory sentence. Unfortunately, were not out of the woods yet. The version of S. 1151 that was marked up in late September still includes a mandatory minimum.


Identity theft

On July 21, the House Judiciary Committee passed H.R. 2552, the Identity Theft Improvement Act of 2011, sponsored by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.). The bill would amend current laws forbidding and punishing identity theft that prohibit the transfer, possession or use of another person;s identification with the intent to commit or aid an unlawful activity, or in connection with certain felonies.

Rep. John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) and Reps. Robert Bobby Scott (D-Va.), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), and Henry C. Hank Johnson, Jr. (D-Ga.) registered their opposition to the bill, saying Because this bill expands the reach of mandatory minimum sentences, with particularly serious concerns with respect to its application to undocumented immigrants, it does not constitute an advance in the fight against the serious problem of identity theft. Rather, it would reduce the ability of the courts to apply appropriate, case-specific sentences and would waste scarce resources through over incarceration.

In late September, the House Judiciary Committee marked up another identify theft bill, H.R. 2885, the Legal Workforce Act, introduced by Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas). The bill contains both mandatory minimums and mandatory consecutive sentences. FAMM sent a letter to the committee making clear that, while we take no position the underlying bill, we strongly oppose the mandatory and consecutive sentencing provisions.

Synthetic drugs

Congress is moving quickly to outlaw chemicals found in a number of synthetic drugs, including compounds found in synthetic marijuana and bath salts. The bipartisan bills would add a series of chemicals to Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, expanding the number of people facing severe mandatory minimums of 20 years up to life if serious bodily injury or death results from the use of the synthetic substances.
FAMM is working diligently in opposition to the mandatory sentencing provisions.
Show me the money
Congress was unable to pass an appropriations bill before the September 30 deadline, but the debate in the House of Representatives and the Senate over how funds for criminal justice should be spent but continued support for the status quo. Here the breakdown:

The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce Justice, Science approved $70 million for Second Chance Reauthorization Act funding in FY 2012.
In contrast, the Senate appropriations subcommittee approved dramatic spending cuts for prisoner reentry by eliminating funding for the Second Chance Reauthorization Act.
The Senate appropriations committee would increase overall spending for the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) by $307 million above FY 2011 levels, while cutting funding for nearly all other law enforcement agencies..
Despite supporting an overall increase in the BOP budget, the Senate appropriations report noted that given the limited flexibility of the Federal prison and detention budget requests, and unless the inmate populations experience unforeseen decreases, the day approaches fast when Federal prisons and detention demands swallow the Justice Departments budgetary resources.

FAMM was encouraged by guidance the Senate appropriations committee included with the bill encouraging the BOP to fully use its discretion to reduce prison populations. It called on the BOP to expand the criteria and use of compassionate release, maximize the reentry time prisoners spend in residential reentry centers as well as home confinement, and expand the use of the Residential Drug Abuse Program.

Everyone deserves a second chance
On July 21, nearly one month after its introduction, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved the Second Chance Reauthorization Act, S. 1231, sending the bill to the Senate for consideration. The reauthorization proposal, introduced by Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio), includes funding to continue and expand the programs started under the Second Chance Act. The bill extends key Second Chance programs, consolidates several programs for better efficiency and reduces the overall cost of the program.
The Second Chance Act was originally passed in 2008 with overwhelming bipartisan support. The law promotes evidence-based programming to aid prisoner reentry and improve public safety. Since its passage, some 250 grants have been awarded providing substance abuse treatment, employment and mentoring services, among other things, to improve the transition from incarceration to communities.
The reauthorization bill would also extend and expand the Elderly and Family Reunification for Certain Nonviolent Offenders Pilot Program, a now expired home detention program for elderly, nonviolent federal prisoners who meet strict criteria. The bill also includes an additional seven day good time adjustment to be applied to all prisoners and a 60-day increase in earned time credit for those who participate in recidivism reducing programs, with a maximum of 33 percent good time awarded per year.
In statements on the legislation, Sen. Leahy and Sen. Portman have emphasized reduced recidivism and overall tax savings that result from reentry support and programming. In a press conference about the bill, Senator Portman argued that the bill will help inmates turn their lives around and become productive members of society, ensuring better stewardship of taxpayer dollars.
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