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Drug-crime sentencing reform shrinks federal prison populations

The United States holds the unfortunate distinction of incarcerating more of its own citizens than any other country in the world. The so-called “war on drugs” is largely responsible for swelling prison populations. The nation’s increasingly strict drug laws and sentencing guidelines have resulted in decades-long prison sentences for non-violent drug offenders.

Louisiana continues to have among the nation’s highest state prison populations. While this may not be changing any time soon, federal prisons are reversing course. Last year, the number of inmates in federal prison dropped for the first time since 1980.

According to news sources, there were 4,800 fewer inmates in federal prisons by the end of 2013 than there were at the beginning of the year. According to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, the trend will likely continue. The federal prison population will decrease by an estimated 2,200 inmates in 2015 and an estimated 10,000 in 2016.

Much of this change is due to major reforms in drug sentencing guidelines which were enacted by the U.S. Sentencing Commission earlier this year. The commission even voted to apply the changes retroactively, which means that inmates currently serving time for certain drug crimes and meeting certain other criteria can apply for a reduced sentence and early release. On average, sentences could be reduced by about 25 months.

Legislators and other politicians have been scoring political victories for nearly half a century by promising to get “tough on crime.” This policy has ruined lives, destroyed communities and cost taxpayers billions of dollars to pay for overcrowded prisons. When a problem has been approached the same way for decades without achieving intended results, the only sane thing to do is to try a different approach. Thankfully, this one already seems to be paying off.

Source: Courthouse News Service, “Prison Population Sinks for First Time Since 1980,” Sept. 23, 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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