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Criminal justice reform inches closer to congressional approval

Though the number of Americans in prison is on the decline, it is still remarkably large: 1.5 million. But a bipartisan criminal justice reform bill working its way through Congress would reduce that number on both the front end and back end, news sources report.

The First Step Act would result in shorter prison sentences for some convicted of nonviolent drug offenses and would hasten the early release dates for thousands of current federal prisoners.

The First Step Act would give judges more discretion to diverge from mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines for nonviolent drug-related offenders. Proponents of the proposed law say it will result in shorter sentences for about 2,000 offenders per year.

The reform would also make it more difficult for prosecutors to stack charges on firearms offenders in order to try to get 25-year mandatory minimum sentences imposed on repeat offenders. The change would affect about 60 offenders per year, an NBC News article stated.

First Step would also eliminate life sentences without parole for so-called “three strikes” drug offenders. The mandatory minimum would be capped at 25 years, affecting about 60 offenders annually. Second-offense offenders would see mandatory minimums drop from 20 years to 15.

The proposal would also make about 3,000 prisoners sentenced before 2010’s Fair Sentencing Act eligible for earlier releases. First Step would also add 7 days of “good time” credit to incarceration calculations, enabling about 4,000 prisoners to return to society within a year of its adoption.

Those facing drug charges and the possibility of harsh sentencing should speak as soon as possible with a criminal defense attorney experienced in protecting rights and freedom.

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