Obama administration backs bill to reduce prison time

FILE -- In this Aug. 17, 2011 file photo, reporters inspect one of the two-tiered cell pods in the Security Housing Unit at the Pelican Bay State Prison near Crescent City, Calif. Inmates say newly imposed welfare checks in the SHU have created excessive noise by the guards, causing California prison officials to hand out earplugs to inmates and tell the guards to walk softly while going about their rounds.(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, file)

WASHINGTON (AP) – The Obama administration is signaling support for bipartisan Senate legislation that would reduce prison sentences for some nonviolent drug offenders.

Deputy Attorney General Sally Quillian Yates told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday that the bill is “a good step” toward striking a balance in sentencing such offenders.

The legislation would give judges the discretion to give sentences that are less than federal mandatory minimums in some cases. It would eliminate mandatory life sentences for three-time, nonviolent drug offenders, reducing those minimum sentences to 25 years.

The federal prison population has exploded since 1980, in part because of mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders. Yates said the current system is costly, affects families and contributes to loss of confidence in the justice system.

House lawmakers have introduced similar legislation.

(Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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