The NYT editorial:
The sentencing reform bill introduced in the Senate on Thursday falls far short of what is needed, but it is a crucial first step on the long path toward unwinding the federal government’s decades-long reliance on prisons as the answer to every ill.
For starters, it is worth noting the bipartisan nature of this legislation. In a Senate that can’t agree on the time of day, top Republican and Democratic senators — most notably Senator Charles Grassley, Republican of Iowa and chairman of the Judiciary Committee, as well as a longtime supporter of harsh sentencing laws — negotiated for months to produce a concrete set of fixes.
Among the most significant are those that would reduce mandatory-minimum sentences for many drug crimes. These sentences are jaw-droppingly long — from five years for a first offense up to life without parole for a third. The new bill would cut the life sentence to a 25-year minimum, and would cut the 20-year sentence for a second offense to 15 years.
A minimum five year sentence for a first strike drug crime is just nuts. Yes you need sanctions, but this is a very expensive policy which has not reduced drug sales or use, and has people in prison for decades.
Half of all federal inmates are in prison for drug crimes. In NZ the comparative figure is 10%.