Durbin: Lower mandatory sentences for some drug offenders

  • U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin speaks with the Daily Herald editorial board about a range of issues, including the criminal justice system, at the newspaper's Arlington Heights office Friday.

    U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin speaks with the Daily Herald editorial board about a range of issues, including the criminal justice system, at the newspaper's Arlington Heights office Friday. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 1/22/2016 8:11 PM

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin said he'll keep pushing legislation to lower mandatory minimum prison sentence for certain drug offenders in an effort to lower the prison population.

"We're stacking people in warehousing for way, way too long," Durbin told the Daily Herald editorial board Friday.

 

The proposal with Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley would give judges in some cases more discretion to give people convicted of nonviolent crimes smaller sentences. And it would reduce the number of drug crimes that carry mandatory minimum prison sentences that Durbin argues have been applied too widely.

"We just went too far. You know, the pendulum swings," he said. "And it's way off on the right-wing side of this argument."

Reducing the state prison population by 25 percent in 10 years is a goal Gov. Bruce Rauner set out for a commission in his first year. They've delivered a first report, but their work will continue.

"They don't have to be crushing to the human spirit," Rauner said of state prisons. "My spirit feels crushed when I'm in a prison."

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The concept can be politically prickly because an official that advocates for felons to be released from prison can get stung if that person commits another crime.

"The honest, honest answer is yes, somebody's going to break your heart. Somebody's going to defy all logic and return to crime," Durbin said.

"And you have to say, if that's your standard, then you will do nothing," he said.

Durbin said he wants to push ahead but said election-year politics will be a hurdle.

"I would say, the productivity of this year in Congress is not expected to be too great," he said.

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