The Senator from Utah, Mike Lee, has sponsored a prison reform bill that would do more than just rely on judicial discretion by loosening the rules regarding mandatory minimums and certain drug related offenses. It would cut those minimums in half.
It includes a provision to decrease certain drug-related mandatory minimum sentences by half — a change [the Urban Institute] calls “monumental,” with savings of 240,000 bed-years over a decade. As this chart shows, that would take a substantial bite out of overcrowding. It also translates into savings of at least $2.5 billion – a conservative estimate, because it is based on the assumption that inmates would be added at marginal cost, without the price of building new facilities to house them...
Estimating the cumulative impact of these changes is difficult, because they have overlapping effects. For now, Urban has only plotted them out in isolation. But the bottom line is that no single option the think tank considered is likely to solve the federal crowding problem – and with it, the Justice Department’s budget problem.
“If you want to reduce the overcrowding to zero, you're going to need to do more than one of these,” said Nancy La Vigne, a co-author of the report.