Paul said mandatory minimum laws “reflect a Washington-knows-best, one-size-fits-all approach.”
Although Berman expressed skepticism that many Republicans would sign on to the measure, he said Paul’s involvement is notable and that the legislation might be characterized in another way that could help build GOP support: “This is a way in which you can undercut the power of Obama’s prosecutors.”
Using States as an Example
Families Against Mandatory Minimums simultaneously released a report Wednesday evaluating how legislation similar to the Leahy-Paul measure has been implemented in eight states “as a way of reducing prison populations and saving money, while at the same time protecting public safety.”
The states that have adopted such proposals are Connecticut, Florida, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, New York, Oregon and Virginia.
FAMM is urging Congress to follow the example of those states, particularly as the federal prison population has grown rapidly and put a strain on correctional facilities and the Justice Department’s budget.
Federal prisons are at 138 percent of their capacity. The increasing number of inmates has caused alarm on both sides of the aisle on Capitol Hill, and the Senate’s fiscal 2013 continuing resolution increases funding for the Bureau of Prisons by $141 million over fiscal 2012 enacted levels to help pay for salaries and expenses.
The spending bill also directs the Bureau of Prisons, a Justice Department agency, “to undertake a comprehensive analysis of its policies and determine the reforms and best practices that will help reduce costs and recidivism,” according to an explanatory statement released by the Senate Appropriations Committee.
The Leahy-Paul measure will be referred to the Judiciary Committee for consideration.
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.