Pubdate: Tue, 27 Oct 2015
Source: Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN)
Copyright: 2015 The Commercial Appeal
Author: Richard Locker


U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen added his voice Friday to the growing number of 
officials calling for reforms to end the nation's high rates of 
incarceration for nonviolent and lower-level drug offenders.

In a speech to the criminal justice section of the American Bar 
Association's fall institute in Washington, Cohen, D-Memphis, also 
called for the collection of national statistics on the use of deadly 
force by law enforcement agencies. He said a bill he has introduced 
called the National Statistics on Deadly Force Transparency Act would 
give lawmakers and the public "the numbers we need to measure the 
problem so we can figure out how best to address it."

A new group comprised of 130 police chiefs, prosecutors and other top 
law enforcement officials from across the U.S. issued a report 
calling for a reduction in incarceration rates for nonviolent offenders.

"I know it will shock none of you when I say that our criminal 
justice system is broken. For proof, we need look no further than our 
nation's prison population..." Cohen said.

Cohen linked the issue to what he called "the failed war on drugs," 
including "racially discriminatory sentencing disparities for crack 
versus powder cocaine" and "the irrational criminalization of 
marijuana." He said marijuana remains classified in federal law as a 
Schedule 1 drug, which is reserved for the most dangerous drugs with 
no medical.

The congressman cited a number of steps Congress and President Barack 
Obama are considering, including the Sentencing Reform and 
Corrections Act of 2015 introduced earlier this month by a bipartisan 
coalition of senators.

It would reduce mandatory minimums for prior drug offenses and 
broaden the ability of judges to tailor sentences on a case-by-case basis.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom