New Vera Report Takes Stock of State-level Mandatory Sentencing Reforms

Today, twenty years after the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act—commonly referred to as the Crime Bill—established a federal three strikes law and unleashed a cascade of state-level truth-in-sentencing reforms, a seismic shift away from tough-on-crime policies is well underway. In a new policy report, Playbook for Change? States Reconsider Mandatory Sentences, Vera’s Center on Sentencing and Corrections finds that more than half of all states have taken steps to roll back mandatory sentences since 2000, with 32 bills passed in just the last five years. Most of this legislative activity has focused on adjusting penalties for nonviolent drug offenses by taking one or a combination of three approaches: expanding judicial discretion by creating so-called “safety valve” provisions, limiting automatic sentence enhancements, or repealing or revising mandatory minimum sentences.

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