46k Drugs Prisoners Could Get Reduced Sentences

http://www.alternet.org/drugs/46k-drugs-prisoners-could-get-reduced-sentences

The underlying drug guidelines amendment was approved by the U.S. Sentencing Commission and submitted to Congress for review in April. Provided Congress takes no action to disapprove of the drug guidelines amendment before November 1, 2014, it will take effect on that date and courts may then begin considering petitions from incarcerated individuals for sentence reductions. Today’s vote allows the drug guidelines amendment to apply retroactively. The U.S. Sentencing Commission ruled that no one who benefits from this reform may be released from prison before November 1, 2015.

Today’s decision reflects efforts underway in Congress and by the Obama administration to reform federal drug sentencing laws, as well as a broader effort to adapt federal policy to overwhelming public support for reforming drug laws, ending marijuana prohibition, and reducing collateral consequences of a drug conviction. In 2010 Congress unanimously passed legislation reducing the crack/powder cocaine sentencing disparity. Bipartisan legislation reforming mandatory minimum sentencing, the Smarter Sentencing Act, has already passed out of committee this year and is awaiting a floor vote in the Senate. Attorney General Eric Holder has made numerous changes this year, including directing U.S. Attorneys to charge certain drug offenders in a way that ensures they won’t be subject to punitive mandatory minimum sentencing.

In just the past two months, the U.S. House of Representatives has voted to block the Drug Enforcement Administration from spending federal funds to undermine state medical marijuana laws and state hemp cultivation laws, and voted on Wednesday to allow banking institutions to accept deposits from marijuana stores and dispensaries in states that regulate marijuana. On Monday, the White House issued a Statement of Administration Policy that expressed strong opposition to a House Republican amendment by Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) directed at blocking implementation of a recent law the District of Columbia passed replacing jail time for possessing small amounts of marijuana for personal use with a small fine. The statement calls marijuana reform a “states’ rights” issue, a groundbreaking policy position for the White House to take.

http://www.alternet.org/drugs/10-ways-addiction-different-America

Sadly, we’re not in any threat of losing our  dominance in incarceration any time soon, at least in terms of the raw number of prisoners we hold. Some 2.2 million Americans are locked up at any given time—compared to a mere  676,000 in Russia and 385,000 in India.

17% of state prisoners and half of all federal prisoners are incarcerated for  drug crimes—and this doesn’t count the percentage who committed other crimes linked to addiction problems, which is far higher….

Per capita, the tiny island nation of the Seychelles has  matched our rate of 707 prisoners per 100,000 members of the population—but we are still far ahead of slackers like the UK, at 149, and the Netherlands, at 75….

Compare that to the US, which has only 5% of the world’s population but consumes  80% of its opioids. We surely overprescribe in some cases—but everyone else’s cruel under-prescribing needs to be taken into account, too…