Policy: Law

Senate panel approves mandatory sentencing changes

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WASHINGTON (AP) — People convicted of federal drug crimes could end up serving shorter prison terms under a bill being advanced by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The panel voted 13-5 Thursday in favor of making major changes to federal mandatory sentencing laws. The next step is for the full Senate to act on it.

The bill would reduce mandatory drug sentences and give judges more discretion in dealing with non-violent drug offenders facing mandatory sentences. The legislation also allows some inmates convicted of drug offenses under existing laws to petition courts to review their cases.

A coalition of liberal Democrats and tea party Republicans is pushing sentencing reform. They say federal drug laws are outdated and have led to prison overcrowding.

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