Senate Leaders Reintroduce Bipartisan Bill on Criminal Justice Reform

October 4, 2017

Washington, D.C. – Senate Judiciary Committee members reintroduced a criminal justice reform bill today which, last year, had broad backing from members of both parties, and law enforcement. The bill would increase judicial discretion in sentencing, reduce sentences for some nonviolent drug offenders, and expand reentry services for prisoners.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), chairman of the committee, was joined by Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Tim Scott (R-S.C.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), in introducing the bill. When announcing plans to reinvigorate the bill a few weeks ago, Grassley noted his commitment to work with colleagues and advocates, as well as law enforcement, on a bill that would “ensure justice for both the victims and the accused, and support law enforcement in their mission to keep our communities safe.” Durbin, the Senate Democratic Whip, said in the same release that it was time to reform “outdated and ineffective laws,” and that he believes the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act is a solution that “would pass the Senate with a strong bipartisan vote –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.”

“This 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. “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.”

“The support for the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act shows, once 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. It’s why bipartisan reform efforts haven’t gone anywhere. 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 or 646-292-8316.