Major Bipartisan Bill To Fix Criminal Justice System
President Barack Obama today called for sweeping reforms to America’s criminal justice system. The president’s announcement accelerates the growing bipartisan movement to fix the system.
“We have too many prisons, with too many people — serving too-long sentences, for too many offenses — who then come home too damaged,” said Van Jones, co-founder of #cut50, a national criminal justice reform initiative. “We can change all of that. The level of bipartisan support on this issue is unheard of in today’s climate. We have never had a better chance at reform. Now is the time to act.”
As part of its campaign, #cut50 has launched a petition calling on national leaders to move quickly on comprehensive criminal justice reform: www.justicereformnow.org
In March, #cut50 brought together leaders from opposite ends of the political spectrum (from Newt Gingrich to the ACLU) for a historic summit on criminal justice reform. Since then, momentum has been building towards a comprehensive solution.
Last month, Representatives Bobby Scott (D-Va.) and Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.) introduced the SAFE Justice Act, a comprehensive bill to reform America’s criminal justice system. The bill would focus on catching career criminals and violent offenders, rather than those who pose no danger to others. It would reform mandatory minimums and use alternative sentencing like probation, drug courts and medical treatment for addiction and mental illness. The legislation offers comprehensive reforms—from reforming police practices to helping people succeed after they’re released.
“This year we have a once in a lifetime opportunity for reform. The Federal prison system has grown by 800% over 30 years. Everyone agrees it is time to put words into action,” said #cut50 co-founder Jessica Jackson Sloan. “The SAFE Justice Act builds on proven and effective policies from Red and Blue states across the country. Congress must follow their lead in making our streets safer.”
The president’s speech today at the NAACP is part of a week of White House announcements on criminal justice reform. On Monday, President Obama commuted the sentences of 46 prisoners. On Thursday, he’s scheduled to visit a federal prison—the first time in history that a sitting president has ever done so.
“One out of every 100 Americans is locked up. Nearly 70 million have a criminal record. But our prisons are still failing miserably at their job — which is to help incarcerated individuals turn their lives around and come home better people,” said Jones, co-founder of #cut50.
#cut50 is a Dream Corps initiative that works across party lines to safely and smartly reduce America’s incarcerated population by 50 percent over the next 10 years. For more information visit www.cut50.org