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Major Easing of Drug Laws Proposed by Federal Judicial Panel


April 1993

A panel of 13 federal judges has proposed substantial easing of federal drug sentences (Dennis Cauchon, "Judicial Panel Proposes Cap on Drug Sentences: Prison Costs, Crowding Cited in Recommendation," USA Today, 3/22/93, 2A).

The panel proposed that federal sentences for minor drug offenders be capped at 13 years without parole. Such offenders are now subject to maximum penalties of 30 years to life. In making the recommendations, the panel cited the huge growth in the federal prison population and huge increase in the average of federal drug sentences since 1987. In 1987, the average drug sentence was two years. By 1991, that average had grown to seven years. From 1987 to 1993 the federal prison population has grown from slightly over 44,000 to 83,000.

The panel's recommendations were among a number of proposals considered during U.S. Sentencing Commission hearings held on March 22. Other proposals under consideration included: