What They’re Saying: Senate Judiciary Committee Markup

intern News, Press, Uncategorized

October 22, 2015

Ahead of today’s Senate Judiciary Committee markup of the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015, the U.S. Justice Action Network released the following statements from our bipartisan partner organizations:

Jorge Marin, Policy Specialist, Americans for Tax Reform: “The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act (SRCA)—the subject of the hearing—aims to replicate the success of several red states by re-balancing old mandatory minimum sentences and re-focusing savings on prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation to keep non-violent criminals from committing more crimes.”

Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director, ACLU: “America is ready and desperately needs a massive overhaul of its criminal justice laws and policies. The bipartisan-supported Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act offers many promising reforms that will reduce mass incarceration and its devastating effects on our country: changing sentences retroactively for drug offenses, increasing support for anti-recidivism programs, limiting the use of solitary confinement for young people, providing for the compassionate release of elderly prisoners. We have deep concerns about other aspects, especially the expansion of some mandatory minimum sentences. We do look forward to working across political divides to make this bill one that keeps America’s communities truly safe and embodies the American values of equality and justice for all.”

Todd A. Cox, Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress: “The impact of mass incarceration resonates throughout the country. Between 70 million and 100 million Americans—or as many as one in three—have a criminal record. A criminal history carries lifelong barriers that can block successful participation in society with broad implications not only for the millions of individuals who are prevented from moving on with their lives and becoming productive citizens, but also for their families, communities, and the nation as a whole. The Sentencing Reform Act is a critical and long overdue first step in addressing many of the root causes and impacts of overincarceration and the overcriminalization of poor communities and communities of color. We at CAP urge Congress to take this unprecedented opportunity to build on the broad bipartisan momentum and pass this legislation and other meaningful reforms that keep Americans safe and ensure that the justice system is fair and affords individuals with criminal records a second chance.”

Timothy Head, Executive Director, Faith and Freedom Coalition: “The Faith & Freedom Coalition believes that this legislation addresses, through bipartisan consensus, a series of much needed reforms to the federal criminal justice system that are measured in reach and already proven successful in many states. The provisions of this legislation, including the reduction of the enhanced penalties for repeat drug offenders, the elimination of the three-strike mandatory life provision, along with providing judges some discretion to sentence certain low-level offenders, provides a real opportunity to ensure that punishments reflect the crimes committed. This bill will reduce recidivism by reducing barriers to successful re-entry into society.”

Adam Brandon, CEO, FreedomWorks: “There is consensus in Congress to get something big done on justice reform, and it transcends traditional ideological lines. With the federal corrections budget growing, now is the time to reform the justice system to ensure that prison space is reserved for those who commit heinous crimes, rather than incarcerating nonviolent offenders for lengthy periods.”

Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights: “The bill makes important strides to address the most egregious mandatory minimum sentences for low-level drug offenders. It will help to right past wrongs by retroactively applying the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 to over 6,000 men and women currently in prison. And it will provide pathways to rehabilitation for current prisoners without compromising public safety. This harmonic convergence of left and right – of civil rights and small government advocates – represents a coalition of conscience that can carry this legislation to the White House. We applaud the effort and look forward to working with the co-sponsors on this legislation.”

Hilary O. Shelton, Director, NAACP Washington Bureau and Senior Vice President for Policy and Advocacy: “The NAACP is committed to reducing not only the overall number of those incarcerated, but also the disparity of those who are put into prison or jail. Not only does the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015 (S. 2123) address some of the more prominent flaws in our sentencing policies today, but by its very bipartisan nature the legislation speaks to the overwhelming severity of the problem, and the acknowledgement, by all, that something must be done. S. 2123 must be seen as a beginning, albeit a strong beginning, not the full cure or the end of the ills which are pervasive in our system.”

Marc Levin, Policy Director, Right on Crime: “It is encouraging to see that the US Senate is poised to catch up with the states that have already passed conservative criminal justice reform measures. The reforms proposed here will be a major step to improve the federal criminal justice system in a way that increases public safety.”

Newspaper Editorials:

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Sensible justice: A smart Senate plan would reform sentencing: “This bipartisan plan would move the nation toward a more sensible criminal justice system.”

Los Angeles Times: Finally, a bipartisan bill in Congress: “A few years ago it would have seemed impossible that a bill aimed at reducing incarceration would win bipartisan support on the eve of national elections. That this bill stands a good chance of passing is a reflection of an overdue realization that America locks up too many people for too long.” 

Cedar Rapids Gazette (IA): In praise of bipartisan prison reforms: “It’s a strong, bipartisan effort with a real chance of becoming law, making criminal justice more just.”

Waco Herald Tribune (TX): Sentencing reforms possible when politicos don’t criminalize one another: “How did all this happen? Republicans are legitimately concerned about the high cost of long-term incarceration for charges society regards as serious but no longer justification for throwing away the proverbial key; Democrats are justifiably concerned about racial overtones in the disparity of sentencing for certain crimes. It didn’t hurt that the reforms were pressed hard by both the politically powerful Koch brothers as well as the American Civil Liberties Union.”

Kansas City Star: Bill awaiting U.S. Senate action would curb mass incarceration: “A powerful and bipartisan group of senators on Sept. 30 introduced a bill that would significantly reform sentencings and criminal justice policy.”

Santa Rosa Press Democrat (CA): A rare display of bipartisanship: “But on Oct. 1, in the Senate, compromise and bipartisanship took center stage. And the subject of this rare agreement — criminal justice reform — is as substantive as the political bedfellows are surprising.”

Indianapolis Star: “In the Senate, Judiciary Committee leaders from both parties put aside differences to introduce legislation aimed at “recalibrating prison sentences for certain drug offenders, targeting violent criminals, granting judges greater discretion in sentencing for lower level drug crimes, and helping prisoners successfully re-enter society.”