Washington, DC (Oct. 1, 2015) – This morning, in action unprecedented in recent decades, a broadly bipartisan group of U.S. Senators announced the introduction of the "Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act," a bill that appears to include certain provisions aimed at reversing America's overly harsh, overburdened and ineffective criminal justice system. That said, while the legislation eliminates certain mandatory minimum sentences in the federal criminal law, it unfortunately imposes and increases others.
In a nation in which more than 70 million people have some form of a criminal record, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) has been a leader in the effort address the debilitating scourge of the collateral consequences of arrest or conviction. And so NACDL welcomes those provisions that are aimed at ensuring that persons are not permanently disadvantaged by incomplete and inaccurate criminal records or youthful mistakes. In addition, the bill would limit the unacceptable practice of solitary confinement for juveniles in federal custody.
"It would appear that a number of the provisions in this bill represent an important move in the right direction," said NACDL President E.G. "Gerry" Morris. "The sentencing provisions that apply retroactively will have an immediate impact on persons serving unduly long sentences and their families, though we regret that the bill does not eliminate or significantly reduce all mandatory minimums for more offenses. NACDL's long-standing and well-supported position is that mandatory minimums are bad policy for all crimes. We look forward to carefully studying all of the provisions of this newly-introduced legislation."
NACDL Executive Director Norman L. Reimer added that "NACDL commends the negotiators and their staff for their dedication and commitment to the difficult process of compromise. With draconian sentencing laws and some 5,000 crimes in the federal criminal code and up to 300,000 in the federal regulations, even a modest beginning to the reversal of the overcriminalization and overincarceration of America is a most welcome development. It is my every hope that the steps taken today inspire further reform, not just on the federal level, but in state legislatures across the nation."
A link to a section by section summary of the proposed Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act released by the co-sponsors and a video of the press conference announcing its introduction are available on the Senate Judiciary Committee's website here.
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The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL's many thousands of direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal justice system.