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DEMAND FAIR AND BIPARTISAN CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM

S. 1917: Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2017 Track S. 1917

Congress is moving forward with two different legislative approaches to criminal justice reform: prison reform and sentencing reform. The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, introduced by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), has secured broad bipartisan support from a number of Democrats like Dick Durbin, Cory Booker, and Amy Klobuchar as well as Repubicans Mike Lee and Lindsey Graham. It offers a bold plan to reform criminal sentencing by reducing mandatory minimums in several categories of crimes and doing away with the “three strikes” policy in some cases. (The bill nearly passed the Senate in 2016 but was killed by then-Senator Jeff Sessions.) The Senate Judiciary committee reported the bill S. 1917 favorably out of committee in April 2018. Should Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell choose to bring this bill to the Senate floor for a vote, it could very well pass.

Also on the table is the FIRST STEP Act, a more narrowly focused prison reform bill pushed by Jared Kushner and the White House. The bill contains provisions meant to bolster credit for inmates with good behavior, compassionate release, keeping prisoners closer to or in their home, and additional funding for programs to reduce recidivism (convicted criminals relapsing into more criminal behavior). The FIRST STEP Act enjoys some bipartisan support from Reps Keith Ellison and Tulsi Gabbard as well as progressive organizations cut50 and FAMM who, while acknowledging that this bill is far from perfect, nevertheless want some form of relief for the incarcerated now. However, the FIRST STEP Act is also opposed by many Democratic legislators including Rep. John Lewis and progressive groups such as the NAACP and the ACLU. Opponents argue that the FIRST STEP Act may cause harm to incarcerated Americans. They point to flaws in the time credit and risk assessment systems, which they believe will have a disparate impact on persons of color, the poor, and immigrant inmates.

The House overwhelming passed the FIRST STEP Act on May 22nd by a vote of 360-59, but Sen. Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Senate Judiciary committee, has stated that “for that deal to pass the Senate, it must include sentencing reform.”

Criminal justice reform is one of the most urgent civil rights issues of this time. It requires a comprehensive and carefully considered bipartisan effort if we are to no longer be the most incarcerated nation on earth. On this, progressives — and even many conservatives — agree. Where people of good faith disagree is which approach will accomplish this goal. While the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act certainly will, the bill does not currently have support from the White House and faces a longer battle to pass. And though the FIRST STEP Act may be a positive step in the right direction, it could also prevent legislators from fighting for more comprehensive reform. Regardless of which path you decide is most effective, call your representatives and demand they support bipartisan criminal justice reform.

Call Rob Portman R-OH

202-224-3353

Hi, my name is [NAME], and I’m a constituent from Dayton.

I’m calling to urge Senator Rob Portman to support S. 1917 the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, or the FIRST STEP Act with the addition of similar sentencing reform measures added to the bill. It is imperative that Congress pass a comprehensive criminal justice reform bill that addresses both prison and sentencing reform to finally reduce over incarceration and recidivism in this country.

[IF LEAVING A VOICEMAIL: please leave your full street address to ensure your call is tallied]

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