Nov 7, 2017 - Politics & Policy

House members join bipartisan fight for criminal justice reform

Rep. Jason Lewis (R, MN) Photo: Jacquelyn Martin / AP

House members Jason Lewis (R-MN) and Bobby Scott (D-VA) announced a bipartisan criminal justice reform bill this morning with the goal to decrease "the size and associated costs" of the federal justice system. The bill will: focus on violent and repeat-offenders; decrease the three-strike penalty to 25 years instead of life for drug trafficking offenses; and make it easier for drug offenders to qualify for less than the mandatory minimum.

Why it matters: The Senate unveiled a couple bipartisan criminal justice reform bills last month, but they have yet to be brought to the floor despite Sen. Mike Lee hoping for a vote by the end of the year. Now, House members are re-upping their legislation, which is almost identical to bills proposed last year. Reform efforts in the House and Senate died last year because of the election and President Trump's tough-on-crime rhetoric.

Other highlights from the bill:

  • Specifies that only leaders and supervisors of drug trafficking organizations should be subject to higher mandatory minimums.
  • Asks the Attorney General to create and publish a full list of all federal offenses with criminal penalties.
  • Calls for processes which would reduce the number of people arrested before their first trial date.
  • Requires the AG as well as the U.S. Sentencing Commission to establish a way to assess the likelihood of inmates toward recidivism.
  • Incentivizes prisons to reduce their number of revocations and to institute programs to fight recidivism.
  • Allows prisons to use funds toward programs to prevent recidivism, as well as addiction treatment and therapy.
  • Creates two additional safety valves, which would make drug offenders without any history of fire-arm related, sex, terrorism or racketeering offenses eligible for less than the mandatory minimum as well as those with a history of mental illness.
  • Makes the Fair Sentencing Act retroactive as well as the SAFE bill retroactive.

Go deeper with the bill summary.

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