WASHINGTON—Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, released the statement below after the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to advance the Smarter Sentencing Act of 2014, sponsored by Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Mike Lee (R-UT), to the full Senate for a vote. The House companion bill, sponsored by Congressmen Bobby Scott (D-VA) and Raul Labrador (R-WY), is awaiting action in the House Judiciary Committee:
“This legislation has clear bipartisan momentum and today’s vote was an important step toward a more humane, fair, and affordable justice system. Today’s action was the most important legislative step toward reforming our broken criminal justice system in years.
Thirty years of ‘tough on crime’ sentencing has created an unjust system that imprisons more people than in any other industrialized nation in the world, a disproportionate number of whom are Black, Latino, low-income, and nonviolent. We cannot imprison our way to safety. The Smarter Sentencing Act is a reasonable reform that will ensure that we are using our prison space and resources in the most efficient and humane way we can.
We are, however, concerned that some troubling and unnecessary amendments concerning sexual assault have been included in this bill. As this legislation moves forward, we will work with victims’ rights advocates to address these harmful provisions.
By forwarding the bipartisan Smarter Sentencing Act to the Senate floor, the committee has shown its commitment to passing meaningful criminal justice reform in 2014. We urge the members of the House Judiciary Committee to work together to advance this bill in their chamber as well.”
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights is a coalition charged by its diverse membership of more than 200 national organizations to promote and protect the rights of all persons in the United States. The Leadership Conference works toward an America as good as its ideals. For more information on The Leadership Conference and its 200-plus member organizations, visit www.civilrights.org.