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October 5, 2015

Leading distinct GOP Senators make the case for federal sentencing reform via SRCA 2015

I am quite pleased to see that, in the wake of introducting in the US Senate the remarkable Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015 (basics of SRCA here), two prominent GOP Senators (one old guard, one new guard) have taken to the op-ed pages to explain what they are doing.   Politics_Grassley_620Here are links to these op-eds:

From (old guard) Senate Judiciary Chair Charles Grassley in the Des Moines Register here, "I'm working for criminal justice reform."  Excerpts:

For the last several months, I’ve listened, worked, negotiated and built consensus with my colleagues on an important public policy that governs crime and punishment and has a sweeping effect on the citizenry.  The nation’s criminal justice system serves the accused and the aggrieved in our society. And the taxpaying public foots the bill for our courts, law enforcement and prisons that protect public safety and serve justice....

Notwithstanding the merits of mandatory minimums that are designed to promote the public good and public safety, federal sentencing has come under increased scrutiny for locking up low-level offenders and incarceration rates that are running up an unsustainable tab to American taxpayers, roughly $80 billion annually. There’s no doubt that drug and human trafficking and gang-related crimes continue to persist and poison the well of civic life, endangering public safety daily.  And yet, there’s room for sensible reforms that improve the criminal justice system so that it’s fair and just to victims, the accused and taxpayers.  The right policy mix of reforms can give low-level offenders who have paid their debts to society a second chance to rejoin their families and find employment in their communities.

This week I introduced the bipartisan Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015. It reflects carefully crafted sentencing reforms to achieve fairness, justice and fidelity to the rule of law.

Our proposed reforms give the courts more flexibility in federal sentencing laws for non-violent, low-level drug offenders, including the elimination of the three strikes mandatory life provision.  We also expand the existing safety valve and add a second safety valve that provide relief from the 10-year mandatory minimum for certain low-level offenders.  It would retroactively apply the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 that reduced the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine criminal drug offenses.

We also target and expand some of the existing mandatory minimums so that law enforcement can continue to pursue violent repeat offenders and gun criminals.  And we create new mandatory minimums for crimes involving interstate domestic violence and the export of weapons and other defense articles to prohibited countries and terrorists.

The scales of justice require equal rights under the law for the accused and for victims of crime.  Fairness in a criminal justice system also must consider the opportunity for reintegration.  Our bill would require the Department of Justice to classify all federal inmates and assign qualifying prisoners to a recidivism reduction program.  This may include job training, drug recovery, faith-based and work and education programs that provide eligible inmates an opportunity to earn early release.

There’s a fine line between leniency and levelheadedness.  That’s why I’m working for balanced reforms that do not compromise public safety and national security.

From (new guard) Senator Mike Lee in the Washington Examiner here, "The conservative case for criminal justice reform."  Excerpts:

The problem today is not simply that penalties are too harsh or sentences too long — though in many cases they are.  The problem is that, over the past several decades, we have industrialized and bureaucratized our criminal, judicial and penal systems.

Which is to say, we've turned them into unaccountable, short-sighted, input-oriented, self-interested institutions — immune to common sense — that treat offenders as statistical cases rather than human beings.

For conservatives, criminal justice reform is not a venue for the airing of ideological grievances or the testing of fashionable theories.  It's about helping our communities stay as safe and secure as possible, while infringing as little as possible on the God-given, equal rights of all Americans and their pursuit of happiness.

It's about designing our laws, our court procedures and our prison systems on the basis of a clear-eyed and time-tested understanding of human nature — of man's predilection toward sin and his capacity for redemption — as well as an uncompromising respect for the fundamental dignity of the human person.  Criminal justice reform, properly understood, is an invitation for principled conservatism at its best.  Our bill expands judicial discretion, so judges can treat offenders like human beings, not statistics, and punish them according to their particular circumstances, instead of indiscriminate bureaucratic guidelines.

It broadens the federal "safety valve" — a provision that allows federal judges to sentence a limited number of offenders below the mandatory minimum sentence.

The bill also improves the quality of our federal prison system, so that we have fewer first-time offenders turning into career criminals. It will expand inmates' access to vocational training, therapeutic counseling and reentry services that help offenders who have fulfilled their sentences return to their families, their communities, and lawful, steady jobs.

Reforming our federal criminal justice system doesn't require us to avert our eyes from a person's crimes, or make excuses that blame someone, or something, else for the choices he made.  No, it requires looking squarely at the facts of the case, no matter how ugly or wicked; holding offenders directly and personally accountable for their crimes; and devising a punishment that fits both the crime and the criminal.

We do this all the time in our daily lives when we recognize the humanity of hating the sin, not the sinner.  It's called forgiveness.  Forgiving is not the same thing as excusing. Nor is it incompatible with punishment.

Forgiveness requires assigning blame and, when necessary, imposing punishments — which is to say forgiveness requires treating offenders as morally responsible individuals — as human beings who, like the rest of us, have the propensity for vice and for virtue, and who must be held accountable for their choice of one or the other.

We know that no man is without sin.  Now, we must remember — in our hearts and in our laws — that no man is without hope.  This is why I'm involved — and invite you to join me — in the conservative movement for criminal justice reform.

The two lines I will remember from the pieces are sure to be "There’s a fine line between leniency and levelheadedness," and "we must remember — in our hearts and in our laws — that no man is without hope."

Recent prior related posts on SRCA 2015:

October 5, 2015 at 06:03 PM | Permalink


Remarkably reasonable!!

Posted by: Michael R. Levine | Oct 5, 2015 6:27:53 PM

Grassley. "And we create new mandatory minimums for crimes involving interstate domestic violence..."

Domestic violence. Here we go. Code for the witch hunt of the productive male, and more of an all sides attacks on the moribund American patriarchal family, the single most powerful factor preventing criminality. More powerful than lead blood levels. The best explanation for all racial disparities in all social pathologies, including abject poverty among people with good native intelligence and above average social skills required to survive in the ghetto.

Is a Facebook message threat an interstate transaction if the two parties live on the same street? There may be a thousand of those for every new forbearance of a drug transaction. That provision alone could really explode the prison population. Did Prof. Berman even see that on first reading of this Rubik's Cube, to use his term?

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Oct 5, 2015 7:36:14 PM

"It would retroactively apply the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 that reduced the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine criminal drug offenses."

Translation? Guaranteed full lawyer employment for the next fifty years, since 100 is the new 60, even in prison.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Oct 5, 2015 7:38:10 PM

Its good to see an attempt to toss the 3 strikes mandatory life for drugs if all things.

Been several in neighboring towns that got the hammer on this one. I never thought this would be over turned. Im amazed and its from Grassley, who I have bashed.

Lets get it passed and make the 3 strikes retroactive.

Posted by: MidWestGuy | Oct 5, 2015 8:44:08 PM

Conserva-tards united.

Posted by: Liberty1st | Oct 6, 2015 6:22:26 AM

Thank you thank you thank you for for the human compassion, decency and empathy of others...this country has gone astray from human justice.. I'm right now in a heated battle with a corrupted AUSA that has been proven in federal court of working with other defendants and at that time our attorney against his own client (my son) intentional tort malicious prosecution confirmed by District Court federal judge in her report and recommendation ruling...BUT u know how it works in St. Louis Mo they do anything and everything to stray away from our constitution of America.. So I'm just delighted for all the other poor citizens that could've fallen into this trap. However were going to trail next month for a circumstantial conspiracy canabis distribution charge..thanks again

Posted by: Laura Anderson | Apr 16, 2016 8:10:10 PM

I'm just a United States citizen

Posted by: Laura Anderson | Apr 16, 2016 8:11:16 PM

I'm a us citizen struggling with a corrupted federal AUSA in where else St. Louis mo

Posted by: Laura Anderson | Apr 16, 2016 8:12:38 PM

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