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Hearing on mandatory minimum sentences planned

Several weeks ago Attorney General Eric Holder announced his intention to seek changes to the federal mandatory minimum sentences for certain individuals charged with drug crimes considered to be nonviolent and low-level. At that time he indicated that individuals facing federal drug charges should not be charged with those tied to mandatory minimum sentences.

Since that initial announcement, lawmakers have addressed the issue as well. A hearing on the matter was planned this week by the Senate Judiciary Committee on two bipartisan bills. The idea behind each of the bills is that judges would have discretion regarding when a drug crime conviction would result in a mandatory minimum sentence. The fact that the issue has support on both sides of the aisle could mean that laws regarding the matter could be passed by the end of the year.

There are multiple reasons why people are interested in pursuing changes to the mandatory minimum sentences in question. One of the largest is undoubtedly the expense tied to housing each prisoner. It currently costs between $21,000 and $33,000 annually per prisoner. Approximately 50 percent of the 218,000 federal prisoners are there as a result of mandatory minimum sentencing tied to a drug offense.

These proposed changes could make a big difference for people throughout the nation, including El Paso, Texas, who are facing drug charges at the federal level. Depending on the circumstances surrounding each person’s arrest, it is possible that if convicted, someone would find a better result than in the past.

Source: El Paso Inc., “Congress looks to relax mandatory prison terms,” Associated Press, Sept. 17, 2013