Two members of the House are looking to rein in the size and the scope of the criminal justice system with a new bipartisan bill targeting the federal criminal code and prison system.
Reps. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) and Jason Lewis (R-Minn.) introduced a bill Wednesday that would reform mandatory minimum sentences, expand funding for community policing and crime prevention initiatives and increase the use of “evidence-based” sentencing alternatives such as probation.
In a press release Wednesday, the two lawmakers say the bill will reduce crime as well as hold the federal government accountable for billions of dollars spent every year on criminal justice.
“Since 1980, Congress usurped state and local authority by putting more than 4,500 federal crimes on the books —including arbitrary mandatory minimums that in some cases throw non-violent or first-time offenders in jail, leading to a vicious cycle of recidivism,” said Lewis.
“There are better ways to spend Americans’ tax dollars and keep our communities safe through real evidence-based initiatives that actually reduce crime by reserving costly prison space for hardened criminals.”
The bill, called the Safe, Accountable, Fair, and Effective (SAFE) Justice Act, is supported by a wide range of groups from the NAACP to the Tea Party group FreedomWorks. It has also been cosponsored by several lawmakers from both parties, including Reps. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), Mia Love (R-Utah), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.).
“The SAFE Justice Act will bring long-overdue sentencing reforms that will ensure prisons are reserved for violent and career criminals. It also proposes corrections reforms designed to reduce recidivism and enhance public safety,” wrote FreedomWorks’s Vice President for Legislative Affairs Jason Pye.
“I strongly commend the bipartisan efforts of Congressmen Bobby Scott and Jason Lewis to introduce the SAFE Justice Act,” added the NAACP’s Washington D.C. director Hilary Shelton.
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