By Mike Lillis - 10/07/15 01:31 PM EDT
House leaders to unveil bipartisan criminal justice reforms
The leaders of the House Judiciary Committee have reached a rare bipartisan agreement on criminal sentencing reforms that they're poised to unveil Thursday.
Sponsored by Reps. Bob GoodlatteBob GoodlatteIRS head vows to finish term despite impeachment push House Republicans press case for impeaching IRS commissioner Saudis scramble for Washington allies MORE (R-Va.) and John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.), the legislation is part of the committee's months-long effort to adopt a much broader criminal justice overhaul — additional pieces of which they plan to introduce later in the year.
The push comes amid rising criticism of mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines, which critics say have gone too far to solidify lengthy prison terms for nonviolent offenses, particularly drug-related crimes that have impacted minority offenders disproportionately.
It also comes after months of criticism against police tactics in the wake of a string of deaths of young black men at the hands of law enforcers around the country.
The combination of high-profile cases has led to a rare urgency to revamp the criminal justice system — long a priority of Democrats, particularly those in the Congressional Black Caucus — that even wary Republicans are now endorsing.
Last week, a powerful group of senators released bipartisan legislation addressing a broader swath of criminal justice reforms that include prison guidelines and juvenile justice issues.
The group includes Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the conservative chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee; and Cory Booker (D-N.J.), a member of the Black Caucus.
The Senate bill includes an across-the-board reduction in current mandatory minimum rules, while scaling back the "three strikes" guidelines that have led to life sentences for thousands of nonviolent offenders across the country.
The House bill does not go so far, addressing only the sentencing aspect of the criminal justice system. Goodlatte's office said the sentencing provisions are largely in line with the Senate proposal.
Goodlatte and Conyers are also vowing additional legislation to address the broad array of criminal justice reforms included in the Senate package.
“We are also continuing our work on additional bills that address other aspects of our criminal justice system, including over-criminalization, prison and reentry reform, including youth and juvenile justice issues, improved criminal procedures and policing strategies, and civil asset forfeiture reform and we expect to roll out more bills addressing these topics over the coming weeks,” Goodlatte and Conyers said Wednesday in a joint statement.
The goal of the broader reforms, the lawmakers say, is to promote a proper balance between punishing criminal wrongdoing and ensuring the law enforcement is both effective and appropriate — all while protecting individual civil liberties, states rights and taxpayers.