Arkansas residents and Americans everywhere else across the country know one thing for sure about the ability of most Republicans and Democrats to get along in Washington, D.C.
And that is this: they don’t.
Although many of us find that to be too bad, there is in fact a caveat that points to hopefulness in some select areas. Criminal law is one of those, with legislators on both sides of the political aisle increasingly aligning in recent months to promote necessary changes.
Recent bills that are being presently considered in the U.S. Senate highlight efforts — with some of those being clearly supported by both major political parties — to bring material reforms in the federal sentencing realm. Proponents for change argue strongly that a few smart adjustments can cut prison populations, reduce the number of freed inmates who are eventually locked up again, produce fairer outcomes and save taxpayers a huge amount of money.
Here are some suggestions being promoted by three pieces of legislation that were recently introduced for discussion in the Senate:
- Reduction of so-called “enhanced” penalties for some drug offenders (mostly nonviolent offenders with no prior criminal record)
- Corresponding increase in penalties for interstate domestic violence offenders
- Close examination of federal criminal offenses (with eye on reducing the “hundreds of thousands” of charges currently existing)
- Greater discretion for judges to disregard mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines
It is impossible to say currently where reform-based discussions and would-be legislation will ultimately lead.
But this much is certain: They are leading somewhere, with the clear bipartisan push making it likely that material changes will occur in the near future.
We think that most people will applaud that, if reforms truly do introduce greater clarity into sentencing outcomes, help offenders better reintegrate into society and cut criminal justice costs for taxpayers.