Justice Fellowship Lauds Bipartisan Bill for More Effective and Just Criminal Sentencing

Smarter Sentencing Act Aims to Achieve Better Stewardship of Criminal Justice Funding

Today Senators Mike Lee (R-UT) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) announced a bipartisan bill known as the Smarter Sentencing Act (S.B. 1410), which will advance more effective and just criminal sentencing for non-violent drug offenses. The legislation is intended to refocus the Bureau of Prisons' resources on the most serious offenders and crime prevention, leading to safer communities, rehabilitated offenders and more-respected victims.

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 219,000 inmates. The system currently operates at some140 percent of its capacity and is dangerously overcrowded. At some $6.7 billion, the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) now swallows a quarter of the Department of Justice's annual budget.

"The prison system is supposed to increase public safety, be respectful of victims of crime and decrease the odds that a person will commit new crimes," said Justice Fellowship President Craig DeRoche. "The federal corrections system simply isn’t working that way currently and is incredibly expensive."

"This reform takes a significant step in improving public safety by being better stewards of taxpayers' money," said DeRoche.

The Smarter Sentencing Act will address the ballooning federal prison system by lowering certain mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses. Additionally, while the federal "safety valve" currently allows judges to sentence certain non-violent drug offenders below mandatory minimums where a strict objective test is satisfied, the Smarter Sentencing Act would modestly broaden eligibility criteria to include defendants who fall into criminal history category two or less (but will not make violent offenders eligible).

Finally, the Smarter Sentencing Act will also allow certain inmates sentenced before the Fair Sentencing Act took effect to petition for sentence reductions consistent with the Fair Sentencing Act.

"Justice Fellowship and other leading conservative and Christian organizations have stepped up to support the Smarter Sentencing Act, demonstrating that being smart on crime rather than throwing more dollars at corrections actually leads to safer communities and better use of limited resources," said Lee. 

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 offenders 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 and the Second Chance Act