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House committee aims to reduce mandatory life sentences to 25 years

By Andrew V. Pestano
House committee aims to reduce mandatory life sentences to 25 years
House Judiciary Committee leaders have reached a bipartisan agreement on criminal sentencing reforms, which could reduce mandatory life sentences to 25 years. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

WASHINGTON, Oct. 8 (UPI) -- House Judiciary Committee leaders have reached a bipartisan agreement on criminal sentencing reforms, which could reduce mandatory life sentences to 25 years.

The proposed reforms are sponsored by Committee Chairman Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., and Rep. John Conyers, Jr., D-Mich., and are part of the committee's efforts since June to adopt a broader criminal justice overhaul.

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"We have been pursuing responsible, common sense reforms to ensure our criminal justice system reflects core American values," Goodlatte wrote in a statement. "We want to make sure our federal laws and regulations effectively and appropriately punish wrongdoers, protect individual freedom, safeguard civil liberties, work as efficiently and fairly as possible, do not impede state efforts, and do not waste taxpayer dollars."

The announcement follows last week's proposed Senate criminal justice reform bill that would also reduce some mandatory minimum sentences, including for nonviolent drug offenders.

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The Senate bill includes parts of a prison reform bill that would improve programs aimed at reducing relapses for criminal behavior and would offer early release for inmates who complete those programs.

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The House bill is "companion legislation" to the Senate bill. The U.S. criminal justice system has been the subject of growing discussion and criticism, particularly over lengthy prison sentences for nonviolent offenders.

Violent crime dropped in the United States last year, but crime in big cities including Baltimore, St. Louis and Chicago has risen. The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world (743 per 100,000).

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"Our bill makes common sense changes to the front end of the criminal justice system," Goodlatte adds. "It reduces certain mandatory minimums for drug offenses, including the three-strike mandatory life sentence to 25 years. It broadens the existing safety valve for low-level drug offenders and provides judges with greater discretion in determining appropriate sentences."

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