Senate Leaders Announce Plans to Reintroduce Bill on Criminal Justice Reform

September 19, 2017

Washington, D.C. – Senate Judiciary Committee members confirmed today that they plan to reintroduce a criminal justice reform bill which, last year, had broad backing from members of both parties, and law enforcement. Congress’ previous Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act increased judicial discretion in sentencing, reduced sentences for some nonviolent drug offenders, and expanded reentry services for prisoners, according to experts at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law.
 
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), chairman of the committee, noted his commitment to work with colleagues and advocates, as well as law enforcement, on the final bill to “ensure justice for both the victims and the accused, and support law enforcement in their mission to keep our communities safe.” Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said in the same release that it was time to reform “outdated and ineffective laws,” and that he believes the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act is a solution that “would pass the Senate with a strong bipartisan vote – it’s time to get this done.” 
 
Grassley and Durbin’s announcement comes on the heels of an administration meeting on criminal justice reform, where bipartisan advocates and government officials met with Jared Kushner, senior adviser to President Trump. Both Grassley and Durbin had spoken with Kushner about reform earlier this year on Capitol Hill. 
 
“The Senators’ announcement today is proof that there are ways to find common ground in today’s charged political environment,” said Nicole Austin-Hillery, director and counsel of the Brennan Center’s Washington, D.C., office. “Both have been leaders on this issue for years, and are committed to seeing this bill through to the finish line because they know how unjust our justice system can be. Current sentencing laws are not only a main contributor to the vast racial inequality we see in the criminal justice system, but they simply don’t make sense from a public safety point of view. This is a promising step toward change.” 
 
“Today’s news shows again that the Attorney General is far out of step with his own party on criminal justice reform,” said Inimai Chettiar, the director of the Brennan Center’s Justice Program. “We know that more incarceration does not necessarily lead to less crime. We know that people are behind bars who shouldn’t be there. Senators Grassley and Durbin recognize that they have support from their colleagues, and are showing that bipartisan reform efforts are alive and well even in the Trump era. According to our research, nearly 40 percent of prisoners nationally are incarcerated without a justifiable public safety reason. This legislation takes a step toward righting that injustice.”
 
For more on the Brennan Center’s work to reduce mass incarceration, click here. And read our report on the number of American’s unnecessarily incarcerated here

For more information or to schedule an interview with Brennan Center experts, contact Rebecca Autrey at rebecca.autrey@nyu.edu or 646-292-8316.

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