New bill looks to reform drug offender sentencing, rehabilitation

A new bill to come across the President's desk looks to make a change to sentencing and rehabilitation of convicted drug offenders. The Senate passed it recently with a sweeping vote of 87-12, which is the result of years of negotiation. Essentially, the bill aims to make reforms to the criminal justice process for convicted drug offenders. Since it's a federally mandated change, it will affect those processed through federal courts, not Texas state courts.

This would mean the drug offense the offender is accused or convicted of would need to be serious to see federal court. This is usually reserved for those who are accused of drug trafficking or other federal offenses. When signed by the President, the bill will give more discretion to federal judges in sentencing of convicted drug offenders. It also reduces the maximum possible sentence for three strike drug offenders from life to 25 years in prison.

For 2,600 or so crack-cocaine offenders convicted prior to 2010, it gives these prisoners the opportunity to petition the court for a reduced penalty. The bill aims to better prepare convicted drug offenders for return to society by giving them access to educational and technical skills programs. This would allow those imprisoned for drug offenses to spend a portion of their time building life skills that are useful upon their release.

Because drug offenses are non-violent crimes, there has been a push for the minimization of sentencing for years. Rehabilitation has been a topic of concern in recent years as so many previous drug offenders tend to end back up in prison. It's said to be a vicious cycle for those with limited financial resources and skill-sets. The passing of this bill should make a difference for thousands of people.

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