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Support Sentencing Reform


On February 12, 2015, a bipartisan group of Senators introduced the Smarter Sentencing Act of 2015 (S.502/H.R.920), a bill aimed at reforming federal mandatory minimum sentencing laws. The bill would create fairer sentencing laws, make the federal criminal justice system more cost-effective and improve public safety.

The Smarter Sentencing Act would help restore judicial discretion, lessen racial disparities and serve to bring about a less retributive criminal justice system. The bill would modernize federal drug sentencing policies by giving federal judges more discretion in sentencing those convicted of non-violent drug offenses, recognizing that our mandatory five-, 10- and 20-year sentences for many drug offenders are too often applied to nonviolent, low-level or drug-addicted offenders. The bill also expands the “safety valve” that can give judges discretion to impose sentences below mandatory minimum levels when appropriate. Additionally, the bill would correct a lingering injustice by allowing certain inmates sentenced under the pre-Fair Sentencing Act sentencing regime to petition for sentence reductions consistent with the Fair Sentencing Act and current law. The bill would reduce overcrowding in our prisons nationwide and improve public safety by allowing law enforcement to focus resources on the most dangerous criminals.

 Jewish Values

The Reform Movement supports mandatory minimum sentencing reform because we believe that all individuals deserve fair, humane, and just punishments. In Deuteronomy 16:20, the Torah commands us, (Tzedek, tzedek tirdof, "Justice, justice you shall pursue"), and the sages explained that the word (tzedek) is repeated not only for emphasis but to teach us that we must be just in our pursuit of justice, that our means must be as just as our ends. The Reform Movement has long been concerned about the disparate impact of mandatory minimum sentencing policies. Our 1999 resolution on Race and the U.S. Criminal Justice System calls for us to “support legislation to end crack cocaine and powder cocaine sentencing disparities,” and we have long advocated for policies that end racial disparities in our criminal justice system. While individuals must be held accountable for their crimes, our justice system should also be restorative, rehabilitative and ensure that the punishment fits the crime. Judges play an essential role in exercising discretion and determining appropriate sentences for offenders. In particular, our pursuit of a more just society makes us sensitive to the racial disparities inherent in mandatory minimum sentencing. Restoring judicial discretion in all cases would contribute to a more just society.

Take Action

Ask your Senator to support the Smarter Sentencing Act of 2015 (S.502/H.R.920). You can send an e-mail by entering your Zip Code above. To call your Senators, the Capital Switchboard can be reached at 202.224.3121202.224.3121

For more information, please contact Eisendrath Legislative Assistant Adam Waters at 202.387.2800202.387.2800.