November 18, 2019

Kaine, Durbin, Lee Introduce Smarter Sentencing Act

WASHINGTON, D.C.— U.S. Senator Tim Kaine joined Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Mike Lee (R-UT) in introducing the Smarter Sentencing Act, legislation to modernize federal drug sentencing policies by lowering certain mandatory drug sentences.

“Our nation is facing a serious over-incarceration problem,” said Kaine. “One way we can tackle this challenge is by reducing mandatory minimums that unfairly punish non-violent drug offenders. I hope Congress will pass this bipartisan legislation to end one-size-fits all sentences for drug offenses and save taxpayer dollars.”

“Our current federal sentencing laws are out of date and often counterproductive,” said Lee. “The Smarter Sentencing Act is a commonsense solution that will greatly reduce the financial and, more importantly, the human cost imposed on society by the broken status quo. The SSA will give judges the flexibility and discretion they need to impose stiff sentences on the most serious drug lords and cartel bosses, while enabling nonviolent offenders to return more quickly to their families and communities.”

“Mandatory minimum penalties have played a large role in the explosion of the U.S. prison population. These mandatory minimums have too often led to sentences that are unfair, fiscally irresponsible, and a threat to public safety,” said Durbin. “The First Step Act was a critical move in the right direction, but there is much more work to be done to reform our criminal justice system. The Smarter Sentencing Act gives federal judges the authority to conduct individualized reviews to determine the appropriate sentences for certain nonviolent drug offenses. I will keep fighting to get this commonsense, bipartisan legislation through the Senate with my colleague, Senator Lee.”

The Smarter Sentencing Act was first introduced in 2013.  Several important reforms from the Smarter Sentencing Act were included in the landmark First Step Act, which was enacted into law last year. The central remaining sentencing reform in the legislation would reduce mandatory minimum penalties for certain nonviolent drug offenses. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that implementation of this provision would save taxpayers approximately $3 billion over ten years.

Along with Kaine, Durbin, and Lee, the bill is cosponsored by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Angus King (I-ME), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Kamala Harris (D-CA).