National Security

Lawmakers to unveil criminal justice reform bill in September

Prison, Felons, Voting Rights, Elections
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Bipartisan lawmakers in the House are planning to write legislation this summer to overhaul the nation’s criminal justice system and introduce it in September, they said on Monday.

The top Republican and Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee indicated that their effort will take a sweeping view of the current system and propose multiple changes.

{mosads}“Together, we will pursue responsible, common sense criminal justice reforms to make sure our federal laws and regulations effectively and appropriately punish wrongdoers, protect individual freedom, safeguard civil liberties, work as efficiently and fairly as possible, do not impede state efforts and do not waste taxpayer dollars,” Reps. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and John Conyers (D-Mich.) said in a joint statement.

“We plan to introduce bipartisan legislation this September so that our criminal justice system better achieves justice and reflects core American values.”

In June, the House Judiciary Committee began a review of the current criminal justice system, in order to pinpoint areas of possible collaboration for reform.

At a June 25 listening session, the panel heard suggestions from more than a dozen members of Congress. Among other areas, lawmakers suggested focusing on exceedingly lengthy mandatory minimum sentences and restoring voting rights for convicted felons. 

The move comes amid increasing focus on criminal justice issues, and after months of scrutiny on relations between police officers and African-Americans across the country.

The issue has united figures as diverse as President Obama, conservative activist Grover Norquist and presidential candidates from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the Democratic front-runner, to Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.).

That political cohesion has given rise to speculation that the time might be right for Congress to structurally reform the system for arresting, prosecuting and jailing criminals, in a major break from years of “tough on crime” rhetoric. 

Releasing bipartisan legislation this autumn would put the issue in the congressional spotlight just as the presidential race enters an important stage, building up to the early primary contests in Iowa and New Hampshire at the beginning of 2016. 

Last year, the Judiciary Committee held multiple hearings on criminal justice issues, but failed to produce any major legislation. 

Tags Bob Goodlatte Criminal justice reform John Conyers

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