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Drug crime sentencing reform finally takes root in the U.S.

The United States may be changing course on long-held drug laws and policies. The policies, which have called for increasingly harsh sentences for drug offenders, have done effectively nothing to curb the use and sale of illegal drugs in America. Rather, these policies have only swelled prison populations by imposing disproportionately long sentences for drug crimes, even non-violent ones.

Recently, however, the U.S. Sentencing Commission announced the passage of an amendment offering a way for currently incarcerated drug offenders to apply for reduced sentences. More than 46,000 inmates convicted of federal drug crimes may be eligible to have their sentences reduced by an average of 25 months.

The commission’s plan is actually more inclusive than one that was originally proposed by Attorney General Eric Holder. Representing the Department of Justice and the Obama Administration, Holder originally suggested offering limited retroactivity in the application of the law. This would have reduced the number of eligible inmates to only about 20,000. Thankfully, the U.S. Sentencing Commission voted for full retroactivity.

This sentencing reform leaves much to be desired, but it is at least a step in the right direction. It suggests that the government is finally conceding that long-held drug laws and policies are ineffective and destructive. Hopefully, Congress will choose to enact further reforms from here.

According to the chair of the U.S. Sentencing Commission: “The step the commission is taking today is an important one, but only Congress can bring about the more comprehensive reforms needed to reduce disparities, fully address prison costs and populations, and make the federal criminal justice system work better.”

Source: Courthouse News Service, "Retroactive Sentencing Reductions Will Bring Relief to Thousands," Adam Klasfeld, July 18, 2014

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Meet Attorney Guillory

Attorney Joshua S. Guillory was born in Alexandria, Louisiana. Upon graduating high school from Alexandria Senior High, he enrolled in classes at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette where he earned his Bachelor of Science degree. Josh was a member of Mu Kappa Tau, a national honor society for marketing majors, while attending... Read More

Joshua S. Guillory

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