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Senate to Hold Hearing on Reforming Mandatory Minimum Sentences

Senate Judiciary Committee chair Patrick Leahy (D-VT) has been on a roll lately when it comes to the issue of drug policy reform. His committee has scheduled a hearing for September 18th to reevaluate the effectiveness of federal mandatory minimum sentencing laws. Mandatory minimums laws are mostly about drug cases and have played a big role in the expensive explosion of the United States’ prison population.

The announcement comes just one day after Leahy held a historic hearing on the conflict between state and federal marijuana law, where he pushed the Department of Justice to takes a hands-off approach in states that have legalized cannabis.

The Judiciary committee has asked Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) to testify about the issue. Paul has been working with Leahy to find a set of reforms that can win approval in the chamber.

There are several positive signs that Congress might actually make some modest improvements this year. Attorney General Eric Holder very publicly called for changes and several senators from across the ideological spectrum have been working on issues related to mandatory minimums, prison overcrowding, and reducing recidivism rates.

While the process has been painfully slow even the federal government is starting to acknowledge that our aggressive war on drugs has created serious problems.

Photo by jumilla under Creative Commons license

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Jon Walker

Jon Walker

Jonathan Walker grew up in New Jersey. He graduated from Wesleyan University in 2006. He is an expert on politics, health care and drug policy. He is also the author of After Legalization and Cobalt Slave, and a Futurist writer at

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