Reps. Jason Lewis, R-Minn., and Bobby Scott, D-Va., introduced bipartisan legislation on Tuesday aimed at reducing the “size and associated costs” of the federal justice system by reducing mandatory minimum sentences and scaling back the recent “overcriminalization” of certain crimes.
The Safe, Accountable, Fair and Effective Justice Act is aimed at taking successful state-level reforms and moving them to the federal level. The legislation is supported across the political spectrum, including by the American Conservative Union Foundation, the NAACP and Families Against Mandatory Minimums.
Among other things, the bill would require mandatory minimum sentences only for leaders and supervisors of drug trafficking organizations, but would encourage the use of probation instead of prison time for others. It would give prisons incentives to institute programs that fight recidivism for inmates while they're still behind bars, and would ask Attorney General Jeff Sessions to publish a list of all federal offenses with criminal penalties.
The SAFE Justice Act was first introduced by Scott and Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., in 2015, and had a handful of Republican and Democratic co-sponsors. However, the legislation was not passed during the 114th Congress.
“More than 30 states have safely reduced the size and cost of incarceration by adopting evidence-based, consensus-driven sentencing and corrections reforms,” said Pew Charitable Trusts. “[T]hese states have shown that it is possible to reduce crime and incarceration at the same time. Congress can learn from these states’ successes as they consider changes to the federal criminal justice system, and it is encouraging to see bipartisan support for reform in the House.”
The new legislation shows a renewed push in Congress for criminal justice reform after the bipartisan push failed under former President Obama.
Last month, two criminal justice reform bills were introduced in the Senate. One is a prison reform bill that builds off of reform at the state level, and the other is a a sentencing and reform bill that is similar to failed legislation from last year.