October 22, 2015

Judiciary Committee Clears Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act

Sen. Whitehouse Played Integral Role in Negotiating the Legislation and was able to Include a Provision Based on RI Reforms

Washington, DC – The Senate Judiciary Committee today passed the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, which grants judges greater sentencing flexibility for certain low-level drug offenders and establishes recidivism reduction programs, while targeting violent criminals. The bill passed the committee by a vote of 15-5.  The bill passed today includes minor clarifications to the original bill text.

The bill is the product of a thoughtful bipartisan deliberation that included U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), along with Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), and Senator John Cornyn (R-TX).  Prior to the markup, on Monday the Senate Judiciary Committee held a public hearing where a broad array of experts and advocates who weighed in on the merits of the bill.

“I’m proud that this legislation includes policies based on the proven strategies that Senator Cornyn and I have seen succeed in Rhode Island and Texas,” said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse.  “These policies will better equip inmates to pursue productive, crime-free lives after prison – helping to reduce prison populations, cut costs, and make communities safer.  I thank Senator Cornyn for working with me to include those policies, and Senator Grassley for leading so effectively the collaborative process that has led us here today.

The bill includes language authored by Senators Whitehouse and Cornyn to allow qualifying inmates to earn reduced sentences through recidivism reduction programs.  Similar reforms were put in place in Rhode Island in 2008, and have been followed by a 17% reduction in the state prison population, a 6% drop in three-year recidivism rates and a significant drop in crime.

Additionally, the bill narrows the scope of mandatory minimum prison sentences to focus on the most serious drug offenders and violent criminals, while broadening and establishing new outlets for individuals with minimal non-felony criminal histories that may trigger mandatory minimum sentences under current law.  The bill also reduces certain mandatory minimums, providing judges with greater discretion when determining appropriate sentences, and preserves cooperation incentives to aid law enforcement in tracking down kingpins.  Lastly, it makes retroactive the Fair Sentencing Act and certain statutory reforms that address inequities in drug sentences.

For more information on the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015, see the following documents:

·       Text of Bill Passed in Committee

·       One-page bill summary

·       Section-by-section


Press Contact

Meaghan McCabe, (202) 224-2921