The bill would give judges more discretion when sentencing some drug offenders and allow about 2,600 federal prisoners sentenced for crack cocaine offenses before August 2010 the opportunity to petition for a reduced penalty.
The bill also boosts education and rehabilitation programs in federal prisons.
Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas says a number of states, including his home state, have shown it’s possible to reduce prison populations and still lower the crime rate. He says the bipartisan effort is not about being tough on crime or soft on crime. He says, “this is about being smart on crime.”
Legislation to ease federal sentencing laws is pitting conservatives against each other as President Donald Trump looks to score a major legislative win before the end of the year.
The Senate is expected to advance the bill Monday. Final passage would come later in the week, but not until the chamber has debated and voted on a series of amendments.
Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and others want to exclude more prisoners from earning earlier release to a halfway house or home confinement. They also want to require that crime victims are notified before a prisoner is granted supervised release.
Supporters of the bill warn the amendments could cause the compromise to unravel.
If the legislation passes the Senate, the House is expected to approve it quickly.