Prison Sentencing

Obama Calls for Congressional Action on Criminal Justice Bill
Says more investment in opioid treatment will save money and lives

Sen. Michael S. Lee, R-Utah, speaks with Weldon Angelos last June. Angelos was sentenced to 55 years in jail for selling marijuana under mandatory minimum prison guidelines, but was released early. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

President Barack Obama said Congress could adopt measures to change sentencing laws, control guns and curb the opioid epidemic to continue an overhaul of the nation’s criminal justice system.

“There is so much work to be done,” Obama wrote in a Harvard Law Review article released Thursday by the White House. “Yet I remain hopeful that together, we are moving in the right direction.”

Obama Shortens Sentences of 79 More for Low-Level Drug Offenses
Criminal justice overhaul unlikely while he's in office

President Barack Obama on Tuesday commuted the sentences of 79 more individuals who he determined were serving “harsh” sentences under “outdated” laws.

The adjustments are the latest of more than 1,000 that Obama has issued during his presidency, mostly for low-level drug offenses. The president has commuted select criminal sentences and granted clemencies at a rapid pace, aiming to make a statement about the need for a comprehensive criminal justice overhaul, although prospects for such legislation are highly unlikely during his remaining time.

Utah Senator Meets Inmate Who Inspired Sentencing Law Rewrite
Hip-hop music figure became symbol of a cause

Sen. Mike Lee, left, made Weldon Angelos, who met with the senator in his office, a living symbol of the push to overhaul sentencing laws. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Sen. Mike Lee has told the story of Weldon Angelos’ prison term hundreds of times, describing the 55-year sentence over three marijuana sales in 72 hours as “crazy” and “nuts.”

“I’ve been telling his story a lot,” Lee said during the meeting. “A lot of the time I was telling this good story, I would sit there and wonder, actually, I wonder if he’s going to care if I’m using his name this frequently.”  

Congress Should Reassess Sentencing Overhaul
Proponents' claims are false and misleading

A cell at the El Reno Federal Correctional Institution in El Reno, Oklahoma. (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

We have spent more than 100 years combined fighting crime and protecting our communities. It is our job to enforce the law, and too often we find ourselves consoling victims and loved ones.

We are intimately familiar with our nation’s state and federal prison systems. It is extremely important that proponents of the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act and the general public understand the differences between the two, because inmates incarcerated in state prison are very different from those incarcerated in federal prison.  

More Support for Senate Sentencing Bill, but Hurdles Remain
Senators unsure if legislation will get a floor vote this year

Sen. Richard Durbin of Illinois said the bill can pass with bipartisan support. (Photo By Bill Clark/Roll Call)

The senators who back a bipartisan bill to overhaul the nation’s sentencing laws said Thursday they've gained enough support to pass it — but they still can’t say whether the legislation will make it to the Senate floor this year.  

The authors of the bill announced changes that had been negotiated behind closed doors for months, or “fine tuning,” as Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, described it. The Judiciary Committee voted 15-5 to approve the bill in October , but it stalled amid opposition from a number of Republican senators.