President Obama says he will ''keep working with people in both parties to get criminal justice reform bills to my desk, including a bipartisan bill that would reduce mandatory minimums for non-violent drug offenders.'' Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) President Barack Obama says in his weekly address on Saturday (October 31) that he will keep working to get criminal justice reform bills on his desk. "Today there are 2.2 million people behind bars in America and millions more on parole or probation. Every year we spend $80 billion in taxpayer dollars to keep people incarcerated. Many are non-violent offenders serving unnecessarily long sentences," Obama said. The president says he will encourage a "bipartisan bill that would reduce mandatory minimums for non-violent drug offenders and reward prisoners with shorter sentences if they complete programs that make them less likely to commit a repeat offense." On Friday (October 30) the U.S. Justice Department began its official release of about 6,000 prisoners in the largest one-time release of federal inmates. The inmates will be set free by the department's Bureau of Prisons through Nov. 2. Most will go to halfway houses and home confinement before being put on supervised release. The early release follows action by the U.S. Sentencing Commission, an independent agency that sets sentencing policies for federal crimes. The panel reduced the potential punishment for drug offenders last year and made the change retroactive. The U.S. Sentencing Commission's action is separate from an effort by President Barack Obama to grant clemency to some nonviolent drug offenders, an initiative that has resulted in the early release of 89 inmates. The sentencing panel estimated that its change in guidelines could result in 46,000 of the roughly 100,000 drug offenders in federal prison qualifying for early release. The drumbeat for sentencing reform has come as U.S. crime rates have drastically declined over the past two decades.