Sentencing Reform Package Advances out of Senate Judiciary Committee

Justice Reform 10.22,15

The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday advanced the bipartisan Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015 (S. 2123) by a 15-5 vote, proving to Chairman Chuck Grassley, R. Iowa, that the Senate “can thoughtfully address the most serious and complex matters in prison sentencing.”

“I’m grateful for the hard work and support of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, and look forward to action by the full Senate to move this historic reform forward,” Grassley said.

The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act is a major criminal justice reform package aimed at reducing some mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders and curbing recidivism. It is the most significant federal legislative initiative on criminal justice reform since the passage of the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, which this bill would make retroactive.

In a letter to the committee on Wednesday, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights urged senators to support the bill, saying the “legislation is an important first step toward addressing some of the causes of the unsustainable and unnecessary growth in the federal system as well as the racial disparities that have persisted.”

The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the bill on Monday, where Hilary O. Shelton, director of the NAACP’s Washington bureau and senior vice president for policy and advocacy, made a similar point in his written testimony – that the bill represents only the beginning stages of meaningful justice reform.

“Racial discrimination remains prevalent in our nation’s criminal justice system, and we must aggressively address it head on,” Shelton said. “Thus, S. 2123 must be seen as a beginning, albeit a strong beginning, not the full cure or the end of the ills which are pervasive in our system.”

The bill, introduced three weeks ago, now moves to the Senate floor.

To learn more about the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015, click here.

To read written testimony from Monday’s hearing, click here.

To read statements from Judiciary Committee members following Thursday’s vote, click here.