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Smarter Sentencing Act: how legislating should be


David Rauzi

Good solutions that cut out wasted spending and arbitrary decision-making. Empowering individuals to serve justice. Common-sense legislation that carries bipartisan support and that best serves national interests instead of rhetorical grandstanding for political gain.

Such actions are now in play in Congress. (No, we’re not making this up. Really.)

Idaho’s Congressman Raul Labrador is receiving regional and national praise for his Smarter Sentencing Act bill, co-sponsored by Rep. Robert “Bobby” Scott (D-Va.), that proposes flexibility for federal criminal sentencing laws, allowing courts to make individualized assessments in nonviolent drug cases, and ensuring that limited resources are focused on the most serious offenders while maintaining public safety.

What’s the issue here? According to Rep. Labrador, current mandatory minimum sentences treat all offenders the same, forcing judges to impose penalties on first-time nonviolent drug offenders. These young offenders leave prison schooled by violent criminals, which hurts not only them but their families and society. Also concerning to Labrador is Constitutional issue of depriving citizens of their liberty; with five percent of the world’s population, the U.S. has 25 percent of the global prison population.

“Scaling back and eliminating mandatory minimum sentences is also good for taxpayers,” Labrador said. “Federal prison spending has increased more than five-fold in 30 years. It costs $29,000 a year to house a federal inmate. Our bill could save up to $24 billion over the first 20 years.”

In response, Labrador’s proposal has received support from the top on down; from the White House, bipartisan Congressional unity to press for criminal justice overhaul, and has brought together 200 organizations that include political opposites Koch Industries and the American Civil Liberties Union.

From our chair, this proposal overall is an example of how we want our elected officials to act: actions on pressing issues that really matter in the lives of people and society; and with cooperation toward goals that improve laws, reduce unnecessary spending, and uphold justice by eliminating arbitrary sentencing with decisions based on the merits of each individual case.

And on a prideful aside, the nation can take note that Idaho has led the charge on this.

Nicely done, Congressman Labrador.


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