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Update on federal sentencing reform: momentum clearly established

We referenced federal criminal sentencing reforms in our March 9 blog entry, noting therein "strong bipartisanship and even marked amicability across the political divide" regarding the need for material changes in the way that many defendants are charged and sentenced.

Put another way: Blowback against what are perceived to be overly harsh and otherwise inappropriate outcomes too often visited upon low-level drug offenders pursuant to the so-called War on Drugs has grown intense.

There is little question where the Obama administration stands on sentencing reforms. The president and top-rung officials he has appointed -- including, centrally, Attorney General Eric Holder -- have strongly pushed for mandatory-minimum sentencing adjustments and other reforms from the outset of his presidential tenure.

And now the results are rolling in.

The bottom line: It would be hard for any critic of reform efforts to reasonably argue that improvements are not being seen. Reportedly, prosecutions in federal drug cases have fallen appreciably recently, coupled with (as noted in our above-cited post) a downward spike in the crime rate.

The evidence is empirical, with the U.S. Sentencing Commission pointing to a sizable drop in mandatory-minimum sentences being handed out last year as compared with immediately preceding years.

And that is a decidedly good thing, say voices from across a broad band of reform advocates. One critic of mandatory minimums says that the overly stringent sentences they impose "don't improve public safety, reduce recidivism or deter would-be offenders."

With strong bipartisan support for sentencing reform clearly on display, the momentum for additional adjustments seems strongly established.

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