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Steady -- and bipartisan -- clamor of federal drug crimes reform

If you're an American who has grown a bit jaundiced over the daily intrigues and in-fighting on Capitol Hill (that is, weary and cynical), take hope: There seems to be strong bipartisanship and even marked amicability across the political divide on at least important issue.

That matter is sentencing reform for select drug offenders, which marks an area where real compromise seems possible and material changes likely in the near future.

A recent meeting of political leaders at the White House readily attests to that. Convened by President Obama to address details regarding the so-called Smart Sentencing Act (a bill not yet enacted as legislation), an evening session brought a number of both high-profile Republicans and Democrats to the negotiating table to talk some very tangible specifics.

What seems to be widely agreed upon is that change is in fact badly needed and that sentencing reforms -- most centrally moves to reduce the prison terms of some already imprisoned inmates and to provide more sentencing alternatives to non-violent and first-time drug offenders -- will reduce crime rather than foster a higher level of criminal activity.

That is a point that the president especially sought to make at the meeting. He noted that reforms already ushered in during his administration marked 2014 as the first year in many decades "that the federal incarceration rate and the crime rate went down at the same time."

That message resonates strongly with some Republican leaders, including Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, a sponsor of the Smart Sentencing Act. Labrador stated that critics of reform often wrongly believe that it brings about higher crimes levels.

One core focus of the sentencing bill is on the reduction of mandatory minimum sentencing terms for non-violent offenders convicted on drug charges.

Envisioned sentencing reforms would obviously affect inmates in prisons across the country, including in North Carolina. We will stay on top of reform developments, keeping readers timely apprised of any relevant legislation that is passed.

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