Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) have reintroduced the Justice Safety Valve Act in response to the drastic shift from Obama-era guidelines, which urged prosecutors to crack down on violent criminals and leaders of drug cartels while being more lenient with non-violent, low-level drug offenders.
The legislation unveiled Tuesday gives federal judges the ability to impose sentences below the mandatory minimums when appropriate.
Reps. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) and Bobby Scott (D-Va.) introduced a companion bill in the House.
Paul was quick to criticize Sessions’ marching order last week, writing in a CNN op-ed that the directive would “accentuate the injustice in our criminal justice system.”
“Mandatory minimum sentences disproportionally affect minorities and low-income communities, while doing little to keep us safe and turning mistakes into tragedies. As this legislation demonstrates, Congress can come together in a bipartisan fashion to change these laws,” he said in a statement Tuesday.
The lawmakers claim the judicial discretion created by the two-page bill will help reduce the bloated federal prison population and tackle dangerous overcrowding while ensuring sentences fit the circumstances of the crime.