Thirty years ago, there were 500,000 people behind bars in America. Today, there are 2.2 million. The United States is home to 5 percent of the world’s population, but 25 percent of the world’s prisoners. Every year, we spend $80 billion to keep people locked up.
President Obama, 10/17/2015
The Case for Reform
Over the last few decades, we've locked up more non-violent offenders than ever before — and for longer than ever.
Since he was a Senator, the President has noted that in too many cases, our criminal justice system represents a pipeline from underfunded schools to overcrowded jails. And while he's since taken steps to address it, much of our criminal justice system remains unfair.
And people of all political persuasions, in both are ready to do something about it.
Learn more about the current legislative efforts making their way through Congress.
The President Addresses the International Association of Chiefs of Police in Chicago on Criminal Justice Reform
What you need to know: Legislative to fix our criminal justice system
In the Senate: The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015
What you need to know about the bill:
It reforms and targets enhanced mandatory minimums for prior drug felons. The bill reduces the enhanced penalties that apply to repeat drug offenders and eliminates the three-strike mandatory life provision, but it allows those enhanced penalties to be applied to offenders with prior convictions for serious violent and serious drug felonies.
It broadens the existing safety valve and creates a second safety valve. The bill expands the existing safety valve to offenders with more extensive criminal histories but excludes defendants with prior felonies and violent or drug trafficking offenses unless a court finds those prior offenses substantially overstate the defendant’s criminal history and danger of recidivism. The bill also creates a second safety valve that gives judges discretion to sentence certain low-level offenders below the 10-year mandatory minimum. But defendants convicted of serious violent and serious drug felonies cannot benefit from these reforms.
It reforms enhanced mandatory minimums and sentences for firearm offenses. The bill expands the reach of the enhanced mandatory minimum for violent firearm offenders to those with prior federal or state firearm offenses but reduces that mandatory minimum to provide courts with greater flexibility in sentencing. The bill also raises the statutory maximum for unlawful possession of firearms but lowers the enhanced mandatory minimum for repeat offenders.
It creates new mandatory minimums for interstate domestic violence and certain export control violations. The bill adds new mandatory minimum sentences for certain crimes involving interstate domestic violence and creates a new mandatory minimum for providing weapons and other defense materials to prohibited countries and terrorists.
It applies the Fair Sentencing Act and certain sentencing reforms retroactively.
It provides for prison reform based not he Cornyn-Whitehouse Corrections Act. The bill requires the Department of Justice to conduct risk assessments to classify all federal inmates and to use the results to assign inmates to appropriate recidivism reduction programs, including work and education programs, drug rehabilitation, job training, and faith-based programs. Eligible prisoners who successfully complete these programs can earn early release and may spend the final portion (up to 25 percent) of their remaining sentence in home confinement or a halfway house.
It limits solitary confinement for juveniles in federal custody and improves the accuracy of federal criminal records.
It provides for a report and inventory of all Federal criminal offenses.
In the House: The Sentencing Reform Act of 2015
What you need to know about the the bill:
It reforms mandatory minimums for drug offenses.
Reduces the three-strike mandatory life sentence to 25 years and the two-strike sentence from 20 to 15 years.
Applies these sentencing reductions retroactively, except for offenders who have prior serious violent felony convictions that resulted in a prison sentence of greater than 13 months.
Allows drug sentences to be enhanced based upon prior convictions for serious violent felonies. o Includes a sentencing enhancement for trafficking in Fentanyl, a highly addictive and deadly drug.
It broadens the existing safety valve and creates a second safety valve.
Expands the existing drug “safety valve” to offenders with prior misdemeanor convictions but excludes offenders with prior felonies, or prior violent or drug trafficking convictions.
Permits courts to find that a defendant’s prior offenses substantially overstate the defendant’s criminal history and danger of recidivism.
Creates a second safety valve that allows judges to sentence certain offenders below the 10-year mandatory minimum.
It reforms sentences for certain firearms offenses.
Expands the enhanced penalties for violent firearms offenders to those with prior firearm convictions.
Raises the statutory maximum for unlawful possession of firearms but lowers the enhanced mandatory minimum sentences for repeat offenders.
Clarifies that the enhanced mandatory minimum sentence for using a firearm during a crime of violence or drug crime is limited to offenders who have previously been convicted and served a sentence for such an offense.
Applies the second or subsequent fix retroactively and applies the sentencing reductions retroactively, except for offenders who have prior serious violent felony convictions (as defined in the bill).
It applies the Fair Sentencing Act retroactively.
Allows FSA retroactivity for offenders who have never received a reduction, or for those who were ineligible because they were sentenced at the mandatory minimum.
Want more information about these efforts?
Watch the President's recent weekly address on reforming our criminal justice system.
"Justice means that every child deserves a chance to grow up safe and secure, without the threat of violence. Justice means that the punishment should fit the crime. And justice means allowing our fellow Americans who have made mistakes to pay their debt to society, and re-join their community as active, rehabilitated citizens. Justice has never been easy to achieve, but it’s always been worth fighting for." —President Obama on working with lawmakers in both parties for meaningful criminal justice reform: http://go.wh.gov/NxAUry
Posted by The White House on Saturday, October 17, 2015
Take a look at the President's Task Force on 21st Century Policing's new toolkit.