Senators Chuck Grassley and Dick Durbin on Tuesday introduced their second attempt at criminal justice reform. Named the Sentencing Reform and the Corrections Act (SRCA), their new legislation is focused on updating the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984.
In a press release, Grassley explained that the legislation, “Improves judicial discretion at sentencing for low level offenders and helps inmates successfully reenter society, while tightening penalties for violent criminals and preserving key prosecutorial tools for law enforcement.”
“Last Congress, we worked in a bipartisan manner to develop a proposal that empowers judges, saves taxpayer dollars and gives low-level, non-violent offenders another shot at rejoining the productive side of society,” Grassley recalled. “While the political landscape in Washington has changed, the same problems presented by the current sentencing regime remain, and we will continue to work with colleagues in Congress and the administration, as well as advocates and members of the law enforcement community, to find a comprehensive solution to ensure justice for both the victims and the accused, and support law enforcement in their mission to keep our communities safe.”
The bill would be introducing a number of reforms, including the expanded “safety valves” for non-violent offenders; a reduction in mandatory minimum for some non-serious drug crimes; and a reduction in the sentences for those offenders who complete programs designed to reduce the recidivism.
The original SRCA was introduced by Grassley and Durbin in 2015, and was able to pass through committee but was blocked from moving to the Floor for a vote by law-and-order Senate Republicans, including then-Senator Jeff Sessions.
All the way back in June, Grassley – Chairman of the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee – signaled that passing the SRCA was his number one legislative priority. Acknowledging the new political landscape of the Trump Administration, he was cautiously optimistic, “Obviously, the dynamic is different with a new president… We’re looking forward to input from the administration … We had the support of the Obama administration. I think we have a chance of getting the support of this administration.”
“I know that there is both support and opposition within this White House,” Grassley added. “I certainly believe that it is consistent to be tough on crime and still support sentencing reform.” “We’ve been working since November to see what avenues we can have to move this bill along, particularly working with the executive branch of government. I’m confident about its prospects,” he said.
There are an approximate 197,000 prisoners in the federal prison system to which the bill would apply, compared to 2.3 million total prisoners in the United States.