Justice Fellowship Champions Proposed Act for ‘Smarter’ Sentences

Smarter Sentencing Act Aims to Restore Proportionate Accountability in Federal Criminal Justice System

Today Senators Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) introduced the Smarter Sentencing Act, which will advance more proportionate sentencing for non-violent federal drug offenses.

The current federal prison system's population and cost has significantly expanded over the past several decades. In 1980, the federal prison system managed 25,000 inmates. Today, it manages more than 210,000 people and is dangerously overcrowded. Approximately half the people incarcerated in the federal prison system are serving time for non-violent drug offenses.

“Sentencing men and women to criminal punishments that fit the crime is fundamental to the concept of restorative justice and critical to the well-being of families and communities,” said Craig DeRoche, the executive director of Justice Fellowship, Prison Fellowship’s criminal justice advocacy arm. "The federal corrections system is filled with people serving disproportionately long sentences for non-violent drug offenses. Not only is this a waste of taxpayer dollars and human capital, but an unconscionable loss for all too many children who know the loneliness that comes from having an incarcerated mom or dad."

The Smarter Sentencing Act will address the overburdened federal prison system by lowering certain mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent drug offenses and allowing prisoners sentenced for crack cocaine offenses prior to the passage of the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 to petition for a sentence reduction consistent with the current law. In addition, the Smarter Sentencing Act would modestly broaden eligibility criteria for the federal "safety valve," which allows judges to sentence below the mandatory minimum where certain factors are satisfied. 

“This bipartisan reform takes a significant step toward restoring proportionate punishment, protecting public safety and stewarding taxpayer dollars,” said DeRoche.

In 1983, the late Chuck Colson founded Justice Fellowship to reform the justice system according to biblical restorative justice principles so that communities are safer, victims are respected and prisoners are transformed. Colson and Justice Fellowship have played a leading role in working with members of Congress to pass groundbreaking justice reforms, including the:

  • Religious Freedom Restoration Act
  • Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act
  • Prison Rape Elimination Act
  • Fair Sentencing Act
  • Second Chance Act