Leading Senators appear to have reached agreement on a criminal justice reform package that will likely include some changes to how mandatory minimum sentences are applied to drug offenders.But even if it gets passed, the changes will not completely eliminate mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenders. And that’s likely to be a disappointment to the overwhelming majority of Americans — 77 percent — who say that “mandatory minimum prison sentences for non-violent drug offenders should be eliminated so that judges can make sentencing decisions on a case-by-case basis.”
These numbers come from a November 2014 Public Religion Research Institute Survey. And as with asset forfeiture reform, they’re noteworthy for the wide amount of agreement across racial and political groups. Even 69 percent of those who identify with the Tea Party say that mandatory minimums for non-violent drug offenders should be abolished, making Tea Partiers slightly more supportive of this realm of criminal justice reform than Republicans as a whole.The Senate legislation is notable for having strong bipartisan support, including from Senator Chuck Grassley, chair of the Judiciary Committee and a long-time skeptic of criminal justice reform efforts.In exchange for the support of Grassley and others like him, the reforms aren’t as far-reaching as many advocates had hoped. But they’re at least a step in the right direction to roll back some of the least-sensible excesses of the drug war, which introduced minimum sentencing provisions that in some cases led to decades or life behind bars for people convicted of minor drug possession offenses.