WASHINGTON D.C. (News4Utah)- Hundreds of federal inmates have been released from prison early after a 2015 US Supreme Court rulings found their sentences were unconstitutional.
But federal prosecutors say the former inmates are committing serious, violent crimes.
As a result, Republican lawmakers have filed a bill to reimpose the tough sentences, but criminal justice reform advocates say that will only increase high rates of incarceration they are working to reverse.
On a recent trip to Little Rock, Arkansas Attorney General Jeff Session lamented the impact of the ruling saying the consequences have been devastating in many areas.
The ruling said part of a 30-year-old sentencing law is unconstitutional. The Armed Career Criminal Act imposed 15-year mandatory minimum sentences for repeat violent or drug offenders who were then caught with a gun.
1,400 people had their sentences reduced after the Supreme Court decision.
Tennessee Republican Congressman David Kustoff is a former federal prosecutor. He says over the last several years they have seen an increase in violent felonies in his area.
Kustoff says the Supreme Court decision is partly to blame and he’s filed a bill aiming to reimpose the stiff sentences
“Prosecutors can have an extra tool in the toolbox to sentence people for a long period of time,” he said.
Criminal justice reform advocates like Attorney Mary Price say Kustoff’s bill broadens the scope of mandatory sentences.
“We will drag into the ambit of this mandatory minimum all kinds of individuals,” she said.
That includes people Price says are not career criminals, hindering bipartisan efforts in Congress to reduce prison populations.
“This notion of locking them up, throwing away the key only pushes us further back, ” said Democratic Mississippi Rep. Bennie Thompson
Many police and sheriffs’ associations are supporting Kustoff’s bill, saying it will make communities safer.
Reform advocates argue a better way to achieve that is bolstering prison programs so inmates can lead lawful lives once they’re released.