Sentencing changes in some states at a glance

AP News
Posted: Apr 02, 2011 11:31 AM
Sentencing changes in some states at a glance

Here are sentencing changes that have been made or are being considered in certain states:


_ Lawmakers supported bipartisan legislation that aims to reduce the state's growing prison population _ and thus save money in the long run _ by overhauling sentencing and probation programs. The bill, signed into law in March by Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe, would cost $9.4 million to implement by adding drug courts and more probation and parole officers.


_ Two bipartisan measures are pending that would repeal minimum mandatory sentences for drug offenses and nonviolent crimes, and increase substance abuse treatment for inmates. Conservative groups say the legislation could save Florida millions of dollars because about 60 percent of all arrests in Florida are for crimes committed under the influence of drugs and alcohol or to obtain drugs or alcohol.


_ State legislators are rallying behind a proposal to create a commission that would rewrite the state's sentencing laws. The plan has the support of Republican Gov. Nathan Deal, lawmakers from both GOP-controlled chambers, and leaders of the judicial branch. The panel would meet over the next year and submit recommendations to lawmakers by year's end.


_ Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels endorsed a bill drafted by a state panel that sought to lessen prison time for nonviolent drug offenders and save money by avoiding the need to build more prisons. But lawmakers gutted the bill after prosecutors targeted it as soft on crime, and a newer version lengthens sentences for some offenders. Daniels is now threatening to veto the measure unless lawmakers restore the parts he championed.


_ Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear signed into law a measure in March that aims to steer more nonviolent drug offenders into treatment as a less costly alternative to being locked up. The measure had the support of top Democratic and Republican lawmakers, including a key GOP rival in the governor's race. It reduces prison time for low-risk, nonviolent drug criminals caught with small amounts of drugs, but preserves tough sentences for violent offenders and serious drug criminals.


_ The state is considering taking additional steps to tweak its criminal justice system as it faces a $15 billion budget shortfall. For example, lawmakers are considering whether to transition some elderly prisoners to nursing homes, house arrest or hospices.