Senators Introduce Bipartisan Sentencing Reform Package

A bipartisan group of senators on October 1 – including Sens. Chuck Grassley, R. Iowa; Dick Durbin, D. Ill.; Patrick Leahy, D. Vt.; Sheldon Whitehouse, D. R.I.; John Cornyn, R. Texas; Mike Lee, R. Utah; Chuck Schumer, D. N.Y.; Cory Booker, D. N.J.; Lindsay Graham, R. S.C.; and Tim Scott, R. S.C. – introduced the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015, a major criminal justice reform package aimed at reducing some mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders and curbing recidivism.

“Thirty years of ‘tough on crime’ sentencing has created an unjust system that imprisons more people than in any other nation in the world, a disproportionate number of whom are Black, Latino, low-income, and nonviolent. We have learned that we cannot imprison our way to safety,” said Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “The bill makes important strides to address the most egregious mandatory minimum sentences for low-level drug offenders. It will help to right past wrongs by retroactively applying the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 to over 6,000 men and women currently in prison. And it will provide pathways to rehabilitation for current prisoners without compromising public safety.”

In addition to applying the Fair Sentencing Act retroactively – a portion of the bill also included in the Durbin and Lee-sponsored Smarter Sentencing Act – the bill also provides for prison reform based on the CORRECTIONS Act, a Cornyn-Whitehouse proposal that allows some inmates to qualify for reduced sentences through recidivism reduction programs.

“This historic reform bill addresses legitimate over-incarceration concerns while targeting violent criminals and masterminds in the drug trade,” said Grassley, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “It’s the product of thoughtful bipartisan deliberation, and I thank my colleagues for their hard work to promote opportunities to reduce recidivism while protecting our communities from violent career criminals.”

The bill is expected to be marked up by the Senate Judiciary Committee by the end of the month.

“We appreciate the bipartisan spirit in which this important bill was negotiated and the determination of Chairman Grassley and his colleagues to reach an agreement and we hope that the bipartisan spirit will carry on to other pressing civil rights issues,” Henderson said.

Read a one-page summary of the bill here.

Read a section-by-section description of the bill here.