In Rebuke to Sessions, Lawmakers Move Bipartisan Criminal Justice Reform Bill out of Committee

February 15, 2018

New York, N.Y. –  The Senate Judiciary Committee advanced a key sentencing reform bill toward a full Senate vote today. The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2017 has bipartisan backing from lawmakers and is supported by law enforcement, and civil rights and advocacy groups – including the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law – which signed a letter this week to the committee backing the bill. Today’s movement comes despite recent criticism by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who was one of the main roadblocks for previous versions of the bill when he was in the Senate.
“Attorney General Sessions largely stands alone here, separate from the majority of his party and the American public, who support criminal justice reform,” said Inimai Chettiar, the director of the Brennan Center’s Justice Program. “States across the country have shown that it is possible to safely reduce incarceration and crime at the same time, and the federal government can do the same. We’ve found that nearly 40 percent of individuals nationally are behind bars without a justifiable public safety reason, and this legislation takes a long-overdue step toward righting that wrong. We hope that the full Senate will pass it quickly.”
The bill would increase judicial discretion in sentencing, reduce sentences for some nonviolent drug offenders, and expand reentry services for prisoners. It passed out of the Judiciary Committee today by a 16-5 vote, with some Republicans joining Sessions’ hardline stance. The bill has been championed by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), chairman of the Judiciary Committee, and a bipartisan group of his fellow committee members. Grassley said yesterday he was “incensed” by Sessions’ “attempt to undermine” the legislation.
The Brennan Center’s recent analysis of Criminal Justice One Year Into the Trump Administration examined Sessions’ continued pushback on any federal reform efforts. And for more on the Justice Program’s work, click here.

To schedule an interview or connect with a Brennan Center expert, contact Rebecca Autrey at or 646-292-8316.