Leahy Urges Senate Republicans To Pass Bipartisan Criminal Justice Legislation This Year

Majority Of The Senate Supports The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act

WASHINGTON (THURSDAY, April 28, 2016) – Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), a former prosecutor, on Thursday called on Senate Republican leaders to bring to the floor the bipartisan Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, a bill to reduce some mandatory minimum sentences and apply those changes retroactively to inmates currently serving unfair sentences.

Leahy’s comments came at a bipartisan news conference announcing new cosponsors of the legislation, which was introduced last year.

Leahy said:  “It has taken a long time, but I’m glad that a bipartisan group of senators has joined our efforts to bring fairness to the criminal justice system.  Now the Senate must vote.  The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act has the support of a majority in the Senate, and it represents a good first step in bringing about the kind of change needed to correct the costly mistakes we made when we enacted reactionary mandatory minimums sentences.  Real people, like Weldon Angelos, are paying with decades of their lives. We must keep pushing and see that this bill is enacted.”

As chairman of the Judiciary Committee in the last Congress, Leahy led hearings about the massive increase in the nation’s prison population over the last three decades and has called for an end to mandatory minimum sentences, which have been a major cause of the increase.  The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act reduces some of the most extreme mandatory minimums and, at Leahy’s urging, makes those changes retroactive on a case-by-case basis. 

The package also includes expanded provisions for the release of elderly and very ill federal prisoners.  This is a priority that was also included in Leahy’s bipartisan Second Chance Act reauthorization bill that was introduced last year.  The bipartisan Second Chance Act reauthorization bill supports state and local reentry programs to reduce recidivism and provide those leaving prison with real opportunities to rebuild their lives after they are released. 

In addition to championing this bill, Leahy has worked on the Appropriations Committee to ensure that the Vermont Department of Corrections receives funding for Second Chance programs.  As National Reentry Week concludes, Leahy calls for Congress to pass his bipartisan legislation to reauthorize the Second Chance Act.

“The Vermont Department of Corrections has done tremendous work in reducing the rate of recidivism in our state,” Leahy said.  “We must do more to support reentry programs and make sure that states have the support they need to make a difference in our communities and in the lives of those reentering society.  Congress must pass the Second Chance Act reauthorization this year.”

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