February 15, 2018

Whitehouse Cheers Passage of Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act

Bipartisan bill with Whitehouse’s prison reform legislation clears major hurdle

Washington, DC – Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) cheered passage in the Senate Judiciary Committee today of the bipartisan Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act.  The bill contains prison reform legislation authored by Whitehouse and Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), which they based on successful steps taken in Rhode Island and Texas to lower recidivism rates, reduce crime, and save taxpayer dollars.

“This bill recognizes that the toughest penalties should go to the worst offenders, and that longer, harsher punishments don’t always result in safer communities or less crime.  It also includes Senator Cornyn’s and my legislation to use successful prison reforms from states like Rhode Island and Texas to prepare federal inmates for their return to society,” said Whitehouse.  “In Rhode Island, those reforms led to lower crime and recidivism rates, made big gains for our prison system, and helped communities where prisoners return.  I’m proud this comprehensive, bipartisan legislation has cleared this hurdle.”

The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act 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-violent criminal histories that may trigger mandatory minimum sentences under current law.  The bill also reduces certain mandatory minimums and provides judges with greater discretion when determining appropriate sentences.  Under the bill, courts must first review eligible inmates’ individual cases, including criminal histories and conduct while incarcerated, before determining whether a sentence reduction is appropriate.

Importantly, the bill preserves cooperation incentives to aid law enforcement in tracking down kingpins and stiffens penalties for individuals convicted of serious violent felonies.

In addition, the bill establishes recidivism reduction programs, based Whitehouse and Cornyn’s CORRECTIONS Act, to help prepare low-risk inmates to re-enter society successfully.  Qualifying inmates may receive reductions to their sentences through time credits upon successful completion of recidivism reduction programming.  Similar reforms were put in place in Rhode Island in 2008, and have been followed by a 17 percent reduction in the state prison population, a 6 percent drop in three-year recidivism rates and a significant drop in crime.


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