There are some interesting new bills being introduced in Congress this week.
In the Senate, Senators Patrick Leahy (D-IL) and Rob Portman (R-OH) introduced S. 1231, the Second Chance Reauthorization Act of 2011. As some of you might recall, back in 2008, Congress passed the Second Chance Act, which authorized the spending of millions of dollars on evidence-based reentry programs around the country. That act also created a pilot program in federal prisons to allow elderly offenders over age 65 to be released to home confinement if they met a strict list of requirements. Unfortunately, the pilot program and the Second Chance Act's funding authorization expired in 2010. The Second Chance Reauthorization Act does what it says -- it
- reauthorizes Congress to spend more money on reentry programs
- allows federal prisons to restart the elderly offender program and run it till 2016 (and now prisoners can be 60 or older to get into the program), and
- creates a way for prisoners to earn an extra 60 days of good time credit each year, if they complete certain kinds of recidivism-reducing programs.
The second bill is H.R. 2242, from Representative Bobby Scott (D-VA) and co-sponsored by Representatives Ron Paul (R-TX) and Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD). This bill, the Fairness in Cocaine Sentencing Act of 2011, would take the current weight disparity between federal crack and powder cocaine crimes (18-to-1, courtesy of last year's Fair Sentencing Act) and eliminate it completely, creating a ratio of 1-to-1. Again, it's only a bill -- it has to be passed by both houses of Congress and signed by the president before it can become a law -- and it's not retroactive. Learn more here.
Keep tabs on lots of federal sentencing bills at FAMM's website.