Friday, February 22, 2019
Another Bill Signals Momentum for Criminal Justice Reform
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Another Bill Signals Momentum for Criminal Justice Reform

Cory Booker, Richard Durbin, Charles Grassley, John Cornyn, Patrick Leahy, Tim Scott
Jacquelyn Martin—AP Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., leans from the podium to shake hands with Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., while speaking about criminal justice reform with a bipartisan group of senators during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Oct. 1, 2015,

A bipartisan bill is unveiled in the House

A new criminal justice bill was unveiled in the House of Representatives on Thursday, the latest sign of momentum for a bipartisan cause that backers hope will produce reforms by the end of the year.

The agreement is the latest effort to overhaul draconian sentencing laws that have sent the U.S. prison population skyrocketing in recent decades. The package comes on the heels of bipartisan legislation introduced last week by a wide-ranging and influential group of senators, which was hailed by advocates as the most criminal-justice reform proposal in a generation.

The new House bill, crafted by House Judiciary Committee chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), his Democratic counterpart John Conyers and others, focuses on sentencing reforms and serves as a companion to the Senate proposal. It would reduce mandatory minimums for some low-level drug offenders, slash the punishment for so-called “three strikes” offenders from life imprisonment to 25 years, retroactively apply new sentencing reforms to eligible prisoners, and give judges discretion to offer more lenient sentences than the specified minimums in some cases.

The package bears the stamp of Goodlatte’s influence. Speaking at the Capitol Thursday morning, the law-and-order conservative stressed that the reforms would also impose tougher mandatory minimum sentences in some cases, including for criminals convicted of trafficking in Fentanyl—a synthetic opiate blamed for a spate of recent deaths in the U.S. and Canada—as well as for drug offenders with a record of committing violent felonies or firearms offenses.