Sentencing Reform & Corrections Act Expands Bipartisan Support [UPH Wire]

*For Immediate Release*
Thursday, April 28, 2016

*Sentencing Reform & Corrections Act Expands Bipartisan Support*

WASHINGTON – The bipartisan authors of the *Sentencing Reform and
Corrections Act *(S. 2123) today announced revisions to the legislation to
broaden bipartisan support for criminal justice reform. The bill is led by
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, Assistant Democratic
Leader Dick Durbin, Assistant Majority Leader John Cornyn, Judiciary
Committee Ranking Member Patrick Leahy, and Senators Mike Lee and Sheldon
Whitehouse.

The revised bill is now cosponsored by a bipartisan group of 37 senators
and supported by a broad and diverse array of organizations and interests.
In a recent letter of support from the National District Attorneys
Association
,
the largest association of prosecutors in the country, the organization’s
president wrote, “As a result of months of changes and good faith
negotiations, our organization feels the latest version of the bill strikes
the appropriate balance between targeting the highest level drug
traffickers plaguing our communities, while simultaneously decreasing crime
rates and addressing the burgeoning prison population.” The bill enjoys
support from coalitions representing more than 400 groups and organizations
across the political spectrum.

The revised legislation leaves intact important tools to help prosecutors
take down large criminal operations, and still reduces minimum penalties
for low-level, non-violent offenders. The bill still expands the existing
safety-valve provision and creates a second safety-valve so that judges are
able to exercise greater discretion in sentencing for low-level,
non-violent drug traffickers. And the bill maintains two new mandatory
minimums for offenses involving interstate domestic violence and providing
weapons to prohibited countries or designated terrorists. Importantly, the
revised bill also leaves in place important prison reforms that encourage
qualifying inmates to earn reduced sentences through recidivism reduction
programs.

After seeking input from Senate colleagues, the authors fine-tuned some
provisions to ensure violent criminals do not benefit from reduced sentence
opportunities established by the bill. It now expressly excludes offenders
convicted of any serious violent felony from retroactive early release. It
also substantially limits the changes to the firearm provisions, striking
all changes to the Armed Career Criminal Act. The revised bill also
establishes a mandatory sentencing enhancement for offenses involving
fentanyl, a dangerous opioid responsible for thousands of drug overdoses
and deaths.

The revised bill also provides greater opportunity for relief for
low-level, non-violent drug offenders. Prior misdemeanors and other minor
drug offenses are excluded from an offender’s criminal history calculation
for purposes of the safety valve. The bill makes clear that minor,
non-violent participants in large drug conspiracies can be eligible for
relief under the “second safety valve.” And a defendant who cooperates
with law enforcement may not be subject to an enhanced sentence unless the
defendant was involved in any acts of violence. Finally, outdated,
non-violent narcotics convictions cannot serve as predicate offenses for
the enhanced mandatory minimum for repeat offenders.

The bill’s authors released the following statements:

“After nearly a year of bipartisan collaboration, we developed a
comprehensive plan that goes a long way to address over-incarceration,
reduce recidivism, and save taxpayer dollars, all while preserving tools to
keep violent and career criminals out of our communities. We’ve taken that
same proven strategy of good-faith negotiations to our Senate colleagues to
fine tune and improve this proposal. In doing so, the bill has gained even
broader bipartisan support. I’m grateful for the work of the other authors
and all of my colleagues for their willingness to come together on a
historic bill worth of consideration by the full Senate,” *Grassley said*.

“This legislation represents more than three years of work on criminal
justice reform, and months of bipartisan negotiations with my colleagues.
We believe this bill can pass the Senate with a majority of Democrats and
majority of Republicans supporting it. The United States incarcerates more
of its citizens than any other country on earth. Mandatory minimum
sentences were once seen as a strong deterrent. In reality they have too
often been unfair, fiscally irresponsible and a threat to public safety.
Given tight budgets and overcrowded prison cells, our country must reform
these outdated and ineffective laws that have cost American taxpayers
billions of dollars. This is the best chance in a generation to reform our
federal drug sentencing laws. We cannot squander it,” *Durbin said*.

“By preserving and expanding important mandatory minimums for violent
offenders while preparing low-level inmates to reenter society and break
the cycle of recidivism, this legislation builds on reforms in states like
Texas that have successfully rehabilitated prisoners, reduced crime rates,
and saved taxpayer dollars. I look forward to working with my colleagues
as we continue to build support for this commonsense measure on both sides
of the aisle,” *Cornyn Said*.

“It has taken a long time, but I am glad that a bipartisan group of
Senators has joined our efforts to improve the fairness of our criminal
justice system. Now, the Senate must vote. The Sentencing Reform and
Corrections Act has the support of a majority of Senators, and it is an
important first step in correcting the costly mistakes we made when we
enacted reactionary mandatory minimums sentences. Real people, like Weldon
Angelos, are paying with decades of their lives. We must keep pushing and
see that this bill is enacted and continue working toward additional
reforms,” *Leahy said*.

“To be effective, a criminal justice system must be seen as legitimate. And
for too long our federal sentencing laws have required punishments that
just don’t fit the crime. More and more of our fellow senators are
recognizing this mismatch between crimes and penalties and this bill takes
a big step in fixing the problem. I am grateful for the feedback we have
received from our colleagues on this bill, and I believe it is a better
product today thanks to the efforts of those joining us as cosponsors
today,” *Lee said*.

“This new bill modifies sensible sentencing reforms and maintains sensible
approaches to reducing recidivism that have worked well in states like
Rhode Island. As amended, it will still help reduce swelling prison
populations and burdensome incarceration costs, and help inmates become
productive members of our communities upon release. Since these changes to
the bill have allowed us to attract even more bipartisan support, I urge
Leader McConnell to take it up,” *Whitehouse said*.

“We maintain the tools law enforcement needs to continue making sure that
the worst drug traffickers and violent criminals stay off of our streets.
We also provide flexibility in sentencing for those offenders who deserve
it. I’m proud this legislation, which was the product of months of
negotiation, is picking up additional support from law enforcement as well
as Republicans and Democrats in Congress,” *Graham said*.

“Months of hard work and bipartisan collaboration have yielded an even
broader base of support for the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, and
I believe it will pass the Senate if Senator McConnell brings it for a
vote. This legislation would expand the number of people with nonviolent
convictions who would benefit from a sentencing reduction while ensuring
public safety. Mass incarceration is costing taxpayers billions and
billions of dollars every year, draining our economy of potential,
compromising public safety, hurting our children, and disproportionately
affecting communities of color. Passing the Sentencing Reform and
Corrections Act would take a long-overdue step forward and help make our
federal justice system more just. The time to act is now,”* Booker said*.

“There is bipartisan agreement that we need to make serious reforms to our
criminal justice system, and we need to make them soon. We urge our
Republican colleagues who haven’t yet signed on to this cause to give
careful thought to the issue and join with us in moving this bill
forward,” *Schumer
said*.

*Communications Director*
Conn Carroll
Conn_Carroll@lee.senate.gov
202-224-5444

*Press Secretary*
Emily Long
Emily_Long@lee.senate.gov
202-224-3904

###


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