It requires a comprehensive and carefully considered bipartisan effort if we are to no longer be the most incarcerated nation on earth. On this, progressives — and even many conservatives — agree. There are two different legislative approaches to criminal justice reform moving through Congress.: sentencing reform and prison reform. They should both have been on the same bill.
S. 1917 – The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, introduced by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), has broad bipartisan support including our CA senators Feinstein and Harris. It reforms criminal sentencing by reducing mandatory minimums in several categories of crimes and doing away with the “three strikes” policy in some cases. (The bill nearly passed in 2016 but was killed by then-Senator Jeff Sessions.) The Senate Judiciary committee reported the bill S. 1917 favorably out of committee in April 2018. Should Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell choose to bring this bill to the Senate floor for a vote, it could very well pass.
S.2795 –FIRST STEP Act (aka “‘something is better than nothing.’) is a more narrowly focused prison reform bill supported by Jared Kushner and the White House. It contains provisions meant to bolster credit for inmates with good behavior, compassionate release, keeping prisoners closer to or in their home, and additional funding for programs to reduce recidivism (convicted criminals relapsing into more criminal behavior). Although it has some bipartisan support, progressive supporters like Reps Keith Ellison, Tulsi Gabbard, cut50 and FAMM acknowledge that this bill is weak, but want some immediate form of relief for the incarcerated. It is opposed by many Democratic legislators including Rep. John Lewis and progressive groups such as the NAACP and the ACLU, who point out that it will harm incarcerated Americans with time credit and risk assessment systems which will have a disparate impact on persons of color, the poor, and immigrant inmates. Even worse, it could also prevent legislators from fighting for more comprehensive reform.
The House overwhelming passed the FIRST STEP Act on May 22nd by a vote of 360-59, but Sen. Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Senate Judiciary committee, has stated that “for that deal to pass the Senate, it must include sentencing reform.”
We agree. We want both.
Minimal script: I’m calling to from [zip code] to thank Senators [___] for supporting S. 1917 the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, and to NOT approve the FIRST STEP Act without the ADDITION of similar sentencing reform measures.
Find out if your senator is already a supporter of S.1917 here.
More script if you need it: It is imperative that Congress pass a comprehensive criminal justice reform bill that addresses both prison and sentencing reform to finally reduce over incarceration and recidivism in this country.
Senator Feinstein: DC (202) 224-3841, LA (310) 914-7300, SF (415) 393-0707, SD (619) 231-9712, Fresno (559) 485-7430
and Senator Harris: DC (202) 224-3553, LA (213) 894-5000, SAC (916) 448-2787, Fresno (559) 497-5109, SF (415) 355-9041, SD (619) 239-3884
Other Contacts: http://www.phoneyourrep.com