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Bipartisan Justice Reform Bill is Best Chance in a Generation to Reduce Incarceration

Members of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee reached agreement on a bipartisan bill that represents the most meaningful reform to our criminal justice system in a generation.

October 1, 2015

Today, members of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, led by Chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), reached agreement on a bipartisan bill that represents the most meaningful reform to our criminal justice system in a generation.

“This bill comes at a unique moment of bipartisan consensus on the need to reduce our record-high prison population,” said Nicole Austin-Hillery, director of the Brennan Center’s Washington, D.C. office. “It is exactly the kind of reform we need to create a fairer, more effective, and more cost-efficient justice system, particularly in its reduction of mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent crimes. The Judiciary Committee should quickly pass this legislation. While more can be done at the federal and state levels to roll back mass incarceration in America, this is a strong effort with a realistic chance at becoming law.”

While prioritizing public safety, the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015 takes important steps to reduce certain over-harsh sentences, while ensuring those serving time have access to quality programming and treatment. Among the highlights, the bill:

  • Expands the current safety valve to help ensure that non-violent, low level offenders don’t get lengthy prison sentences intended for major traffickers;
  • Retroactively applies the Fair Sentencing Act, which reduced sentences for those convicted of crack-cocaine related offenses, providing relief to around 6,000 prisoners;
  • Reduces a number of mandatory minimums in an effort to focus those sentences on the offenders who are most dangerous to society;
  • Bans federal solitary confinement for juvenile offenders in most circumstances.

After lengthy negotiations between Senators from both parties, the bill is expected to be voted on this month within the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, where it has broad support. If passed as expected, it would then move to the full Senate for consideration. 

Read more about the Brennan Center’s work on criminal justice reform.

For more information or to schedule an interview, contact Naren Daniel at (646) 292-8381 or naren.daniel@nyu.edu.