Bipartisan duo offer criminal justice reform legislation

Bipartisan duo offer criminal justice reform legislation
© Greg Nash

Two members of the House are looking to rein in the size and the scope of the criminal justice system with a new bipartisan bill targeting the federal criminal code and prison system.

Reps. Bobby ScottRobert (Bobby) Cortez ScottTop Trump health official warned against controversial ObamaCare changes in private memo Top Trump health official warned against controversial ObamaCare changes in private memo Centrist Democrats raise concerns over minimum wage push MORE (D-Va.) and Jason Lewis (R-Minn.) introduced a bill Wednesday that would reform mandatory minimum sentences, expand funding for community policing and crime prevention initiatives and increase the use of "evidence-based" sentencing alternatives such as probation.

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In a press release Wednesday, the two lawmakers say the bill will reduce crime as well as hold the federal government accountable for billions of dollars spent every year on criminal justice.

“Since 1980, Congress usurped state and local authority by putting more than 4,500 federal crimes on the books —including arbitrary mandatory minimums that in some cases throw non-violent or first-time offenders in jail, leading to a vicious cycle of recidivism,” said Lewis. 

“There are better ways to spend Americans’ tax dollars and keep our communities safe through real evidence-based initiatives that actually reduce crime by reserving costly prison space for hardened criminals."

The bill, called the Safe, Accountable, Fair, and Effective (SAFE) Justice Act, is supported by a wide range of groups from the NAACP to the Tea Party group FreedomWorks. It has also been cosponsored by several lawmakers from both parties, including Reps. John ConyersJohn James ConyersHouse to hold first hearing on slavery reparations in over a decade House to hold first hearing on slavery reparations in over a decade Reparations: The 'lost cause' of black politics? MORE Jr. (D-Mich.), Mia Love (R-Utah), Sheila Jackson LeeSheila Jackson LeeHouse to hold first hearing on slavery reparations in over a decade House to hold first hearing on slavery reparations in over a decade Democrats begin Mueller hearings with Watergate-era witness MORE (D-Texas), Carlos CurbeloCarlos Luis CurbeloThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump, Biden go toe-to-toe in Iowa The Hill's Morning Report - Trump, Biden go toe-to-toe in Iowa Ex-GOP lawmakers are face of marijuana blitz MORE (R-Fla.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) and Brian FitzpatrickBrian K. FitzpatrickLawmakers push to permanently ban automatic pay raises for members of Congress Lawmakers push to permanently ban automatic pay raises for members of Congress GOP leader, Ocasio-Cortez give boost to lawmaker pay hike MORE (R-Pa.).

"The SAFE Justice Act will bring long-overdue sentencing reforms that will ensure prisons are reserved for violent and career criminals. It also proposes corrections reforms designed to reduce recidivism and enhance public safety," wrote FreedomWorks's Vice President for Legislative Affairs Jason Pye.

“I strongly commend the bipartisan efforts of Congressmen Bobby Scott and Jason Lewis to introduce the SAFE Justice Act,” added the NAACP's Washington D.C. director Hilary Shelton.