Sen. John Cornyn has proposed legislation that would allow some non-violent drug offenders to be considered for sentences lower than the federal mandatory sentences.
In exchange offenders agree to take part in a special rehabilitation program that could pave the way to a more productive life. They might be assigned to an in-prison drug rehab program, or to a program that teaches job skills.
“People who made a mistake, a vast majority, of them were ultimately going to get out and question were they going to be better prepared for a lawful life, productive life on the outside or were they just going to go right back to where they came from because they weren’t prepared for life on the outside," Cornyn said.
Roughly 5 percent of the nation’s current federal prison population would qualify to have their sentence reduced through completion of one of these recidivism reduction classes. According to the U.S. Sentencing Commission, 48 percent of all federal drug offenders are considered low-level dealers or couriers with little or no time in prison.
Cornyn said by participating in these programs inmates could earn early release or serve out the rest of their sentences while under house-arrest or at a halfway house.
“What we’re asking our courts to do these days are really by default because they’re not happening anywhere else, but we need somebody to take people who are suffering from mental illness or perhaps drug or alcohol problem and try to get them some help, because so often these are co-occurring problems, people are self-medicating and the like," Cornyn explained.
Cornyn’s bill, Senate Bill 2123, is awaiting a vote before the full senate, which could come this spring.