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A train not stopping: call for criminal law reforms gains steam

Many of our readers in Denver and across Colorado certainly note -- and likely criticize -- the constant bickering that our national lawmakers routinely engage in on Capitol Hill, and the resulting inaction that follows in its steady wake.

There are exceptions to the general inclination of national politicians to simply stand back behind party lines and lob verbal shots at "the other side," though, with results that are both encouraging and spell great hopes for positive change.

Consider the realm of criminal sentencing in the federal realm, for example. In recent years, and in progressively growing fashion, prominent Republican and Democratic lawmakers have been locking arms and collectively endorsing material changes to current laws they say are punitive and illogical.

Experienced defense attorneys across the country note that development with strong interest, given their intimate knowledge of the inconsistency and unfairness that clearly applies to some sentencing outcomes.

Drug offenders come quickly to mind, with legions of low-level -- that is, nonviolent and first-time -- offenders serving sentences mandating many years of confinement.

Judges have long lamented their limited ability to make things fair for many of those defendants, given the existence of federal guidelines and mandatory minimum restrictions that greatly limit their discretion.

A recent media spotlight focuses upon several recently introduced bills focused on federal sentencing reform that are currently working their way through the U.S. Senate. As noted above, the bipartisan bent in much of the legislation bodes well for an outcome that actually brings some positive changes to the sentencing universe.

The various bills under consideration address broad-based subject matter, ranging from increased judicial discretion and a lessened focus on mandatory minimums to retroactive sentence reductions, a revisiting of criminal offenses currently listed under federal law, and more.

Reform momentum is clearly on the upswing at the national level. We will be sure to keep our readers fully and timely informed of material changes that reasonably seem to be forthcoming owing to growing political bipartisanship.

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