In many cases, individuals charged in criminal cases related to drug possession and drug distribution receive sentences that do not fit the crime. Jails and prisons around the United States are dealing with overcrowding problems and federal detention facilities are at nearly 140 percent capacity. As states grapple with how to fund keeping many of these non-violent offenders behind bars, taxpayers are often called upon to foot the bill.

New legislation was recently introduced that aims to reduce mandatory and often punitive sentencing guidelines for non-violent offenders. Many of the individuals that stand to benefit from the proposed legislation face
drug charges. The bill, which was introduced by Senators Rand Paul and Pat Leahy, is called the “Justice Safety Valve Act of 2013”.

When introducing the bill, the Senators argued that federal sentencing guidelines impose overly harsh and punitive mandatory minimums for offenders who would benefit from lesser sentences or alternative sentences. In many cases, individuals involved in drug crimes would benefit more from a court-mandated drug treatment program than from sitting idle behind bars.

If passed, the "Justice Safety Valve Act of 2013" would allow judges to impose sentences that are below the mandatory minimum. A judge may choose to use the safety valve should he or she believe the mandatory minimum sentence to be too unreasonable or lengthy.

While many lawmakers recognize the need for mandatory sentencing reform and are taking steps to bring about changes, individuals charged in non-violent crimes continue to receive harsh sentences. It’s important, therefore, that individuals who are facing criminal charges related to drug possession or distribution retain legal counsel. When faced with such matters, a criminal defense attorney can help provide for the best possible legal outcome.

Source: Reason, ”
Today Rand Paul and Pat Leahy Introduced a Bill to Fix Our Atrocious Federal Mandatory Minimum Laws,” Mike Riggs, March 20, 2013