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Urge Congress to Pass Sentencing Reform

Over the past 40 years, the American prison population has grown by 500%. Over two million Americans are currently incarcerated, and a disproportionate number are people of color. The explosion in the prison population has resulted in overcrowding, poor treatment of prisoners, and staggering costs for the public.

In the 114th Congress, members from both sides of the aisle have come together in support of comprehensive reforms to our nation’s sentencing laws. The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015 (S. 2123), the Sentencing Reform Act of 2015 (H.R. 3713) and the Corrections and Recidivism Reduction Act (H.R. 759) represented the most significant efforts at criminal justice reform in decades. Provisions in these bills would tackle the problems of mass incarceration and over-criminalization by reducing mandatory minimums for nonviolent drug offenses and granting judges greater discretion in sentencing decisions.

The 115th Congress can act on this bipartisan consensus and demonstrate much-needed unity around urgent reforms to the criminal justice system. Urge your Representative and Senators to support comprehensive legislation to create fairer sentencing laws, improve prison practices and encourage successful reentry.

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  • Background:

    Legislation like the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015 (S. 2123) in the Senate and the Sentencing Reform Act of 2015 (H.R. 3713) in the House would reduce mandatory minimums for nonviolent drug offenses, give judges greater discretion in sentencing and make retroactive the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, which substantially reduced the sentencing disparity between powder and crack cocaine. Language in the Senate bill, as well as in the Corrections and Recidivism Reduction Act (H.R. 759), would also create a new system by which prisoners can have their sentences reduced for participation in recidivism reduction programs and reform the federal juvenile justice system to ensure better treatment for youth offenders.

    With more than two million Americans in prison or jail, the United States has the largest incarcerated population in the world by total numbers. Of the total population of prisoners in federal incarceration centers, 46% are serving time for drug offenses. According to the Sentencing Project, 38% of state and federal prisoners in 2011 were black and 21% were Hispanic, despite African Americans and Hispanics comprising only 13.2% and 17.4% of the total US population, respectively. Further, one in every three black men is expected to serve time in prison at some point in his life, as compared to one in every 17 white men.

    Jewish Values:

    While preventing and punishing criminal conduct are among the primary obligations of government at all levels, it is also the obligation of government to ensure that no one is unjustly accused, convicted or punished. We reaffirm the Biblical concept that a criminal is a human being, capable of reshaping his or her life. “I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn away from his way and live” (Ezekiel 33:11). We must work for a criminal justice system that gives those who are incarcerated a real chance for reform and to reenter society.

    More information:

    You can email your elected officials through our form above, or you can call the Capital Switchboard at 202.224.3121 and ask to speak directly with their offices.

    For more information on this issue, visit the RAC’s criminal justice resources page or contact Senior Eisendrath Legislative Assistant Jacob Kraus.