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A Look at Criminal Justice Reform Post-Election

December 9, 2016, on Articles |

There has been bipartisan support for criminal justice reform over the last legislative session, as virtually everyone agrees that something needs to be done to solve the mass incarceration problem in the United States. Mandatory minimum sentencing and a host of other laws mean that far too many defendants face disproportionately long prison sentences for minor crimes, especially at the federal level. 

The problems within the criminal justice system make defendants vulnerable, and make it especially essential for anyone accused of wrongdoing to seek help from skilled Albany criminal defense attorneys.

Unfortunately, despite the consensus that change is needed, legislation addressing problems with sentencing laws has not passed. There is also little hope that there will be a vote in both the House and Senate before the end of President Barack Obama's term. This means that the election could have profound consequences when it comes to the possibility of the justice system getting needed reforms.

What Does the Election Mean for Criminal Justice Reform?

When Donald Trump won the election in a surprise upset, advocates of criminal justice reform became concerned.  Why? Donald Trump ran his campaign on an explicitly law and order platform.  He also indicated an intent to jail undocumented immigrants who are in the United States without legal status, and he announced an intent to nominate Senator Jeff Sessions as Attorney General.

Sessions has spoken out vocally and strongly against the legalization of marijuana and has expressed support for the war on drugs, despite the fact that the war on drugs is largely credited with causing the mass incarceration problem in the United States.

When he was on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sessions also voted against a Senate bill that would have reduced certain mandatory minimum sentences.  Since he has not been an advocate of positive change in the past, there are worries among proponents of criminal justice reform that his nomination could be a major roadblock.

While there is cause for concern, some proponents of reform still remain optimistic. These advocates point to the fact that Sessions authored a Drug Sentencing Reform Act back in 2001 which reduced the amount of powder cocaine and increased the amount of crack cocaine required before a mandatory minimum sentence became necessary. 

Others have said Sessions has high demands for legislation and could potentially support a well-written bill that reduces recidivism rates. The national director and co-founder of #Cut50 believes a bill stands a good chance of passing if it is focused on over-criminalization, re-entry, and initiatives to help get formerly incarcerated people back into the workforce upon release.

Hopefully, this is an accurate assessment and changes will happen. If reform does not happen, the stakes will continue to be far too high when you are charged with a serious offense. That said, it is imperative for individuals to do everything possible to protect their future. The attorneys at The Law Office of James E. Tyner, PLLC should be consulted for help as soon as possible when you are accused of wrongdoing or charged with a crime. Contact us today to find out how we can help.