Mass Incarceration Will Continue to Plague Our Country If We Don’t Do Something to Address It Now

Last week a bipartisan group of Senators introduced the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015, a compromise bill that aims to recalibrate unfair prison sentences, curb recidivism and change the culture of mass incarceration in this country.

Culling ideas from across the political spectrum, from Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa to Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey, it provides necessary reform for non-violent drug offenders, and ensures that the toughest penalties are reserved for violent offenders and those who run huge trafficking rings that bring violence and mayhem into our communities.

Our bill scales back the over-incarceration of non-violent drug offenders that has overrun our prison system, and builds programs to ensure that people in prison will be given the tools they need to come out and become productive citizens.

We have all heard the stories: a girlfriend sitting in the car while a drug dealer goes in and sells drugs gets the same 10 to 20 year sentence that he does; that is far too long! Our bill aims to change sentences like these by putting the decision in the hands of judges.

By allowing fair and thoughtful judges to actually think for themselves and take into consideration the circumstances of a crime, we’ll finally move away from arcane guidelines that have created a completely unreasonable and unsustainable prison system.

The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act is focused like a laser on reducing recidivism. If we put criminals in jail and ignore them until their release date, the potential for them to commit another crime goes through the roof. If, however, we make sure that the time these offenders spend in jail includes drug treatment and job training and is focused on preventing a repeat offense when they leave prison, we can dramatically reduce recidivism rates.

Crafting sentencing reform in this congress is like a Rubik’s cube, and not every Senator got everything that he wanted, but that’s the nature of compromise. The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act is a smart, fair, and balanced bill that reduces costs and reduces crime. Moreover, this bill makes important reforms that our criminal justice system — and the men and women it serves — so desperately need.

This week Senator Booker and I are urging Congress to pass this bill, make a real difference in the lives of people both in and out of prison, and help huge numbers of young men who long to turn their lives around. I hope we will have your support.

Please see the Senate Judiciary Committee’s bill summary below and visit judiciary.senate.gov for more information.