LatinoJustice Applauds Bipartisan Efforts to Establish Reforms to a Broken Criminal Justice System

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 22, 2015

CONTACT: John Garcia, Director of Communications, 212-739-7513, 917-673-9095 or jgarcia@latinojustice.org.

LatinoJustice PRLDEF supports bipartisan efforts in the U.S. Senate as important first steps to establishing practical and important reforms that will transform a broken criminal justice system.

The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015 and the REDEEM Act (Record Expungement Designed to Enhance Employment) are major bipartisan bills that seek to improve juvenile record confidentiality, automatically seal nonviolent juvenile offenses that occur after a child has reached the age of fifteen, recalibrate prison sentences for certain drug offenders and grant judges greater discretion at sentencing for lower-level drug crimes..

“Although we wish the bills did more, there is something wrong with a system that incarcerates more people than another country,” said Juan Cartegena, President and General Counsel, LatinoJustice PRLDEF. “These historic changes will result in giving a second chance to many young people and go a long way to reintroducing them into our society. These changes are necessary, needed and will go far in bringing compassion and fairness back into a broken system.”

New Jersey Senator Cory Booker (D) has been an agent for change. He has been joined in his efforts by Senators John Cornyn (R-Texas), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA).

In a written statement, Sen. Booker said, “For decades, our broken criminal justice system has held our nation back from realizing its full potential. Today, we take a step forward. Mass incarceration has cost taxpayers billions of dollars, drained our economy, compromised public safety, hurt our children, and disproportionately affected communities of color while devaluing the very idea of justice in America. The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act is a promising, bipartisan step forward to help right this wrong.”

Juan Cartegena said, “Latinos, especially in the federal correctional system, are disproportionally convicted and incarcerated. Accordingly, this legislation reform takes an important step towards helping thousands of Latinos.”

The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015 will reduce the enhanced penalties that apply to repeat drug offenders; eliminate the three-strike mandatory life provision; creates new mandatory minimums for interstate domestic violence violations; 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; and provides for a report and inventory of all federal criminal offenses.

The REDEEM Act will create a federal sealing pathway for nonviolent adult ex-offenders; automatically seal and, in some cases, expunges juvenile records; incentivize states to raise the age of adult criminal responsibility to 18 years old; significantly restrict room confinement of juveniles; lift the lifetime SNAP(Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) and TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) bans on many non-violent drug offenders; and improve the accuracy of the FBI background check system.

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