We find ourselves at a pivotal moment in public policy advocacy for criminal justice reform. In the last several years, there has been growing public dialogue about the need to reform harsh federal sentencing laws, which are a central factor in the explosion of the federal prison population. A strong bipartisan, diverse coalition of organizations has come together to advocate for sentencing reform. There is widespread agreement across lines of partisanship that the current system is not working!
Last week a bipartisan group of senators led by Senators Chuck Grassley and Dick Durbin introduced comprehensive legislation aimed at reducing prison sentences for non-violent, lower-level drug offenders and granting judges greater discretion at sentencing. The bill, titled “The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015” (S. 2123) focuses on justice, rehabilitation and public safety by addressing over-incarceration of non-violent, low-level drug offenders and promoting opportunities to reduce recidivism. Because some of the reforms are to be applied retroactively, the bill is expected to help save taxpayer dollars, reduce hardships on families who are living with incarceration, and ultimately strengthen broken communities. There are also provisions limiting solitary confinement for juveniles and for addressing the needs of those in prison that are living with disabilities or elderly.
Throughout its history, the witness of the United Church of Christs General Synod has reflected a faithful and prophetic engagement to address injustice in the criminal justice system. This bill is an important step forward and will help right some of the injustices created by our system of mandatory sentencing.
Act now – Contact your Senator and urge them to cosponsor S. 2123 - The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act!