Conyers and Jackson Lee Unveil Package of Legislation to Reform Policing Practices and Youth Incarceration
“I thank Ranking Member Conyers and Crime Subcommittee Ranking Member Jackson Lee for their hard work to address many of the issues facing the criminal justice system. I look forward to reviewing their legislation and finding areas of common ground in order to improve our nation’s criminal justice system.”
Today, House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI) and House Judiciary Crime Subcommittee Ranking Member Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) held a press conference to unveil H.R. 2875, the Law Enforcement Trust and Integrity Act of 2015 (LETIA) and a package of three bills to reform youth incarceration.
These reforms provide a roadmap to restore the balance between our law enforcement and our communities, and take meaningful steps toward overhauling the mass incarceration of our youth.
At the press conference, the Members were joined by Gregory Thomas, President of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE); Julie Stewart, President of the Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM); Hilary Shelton with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Dr. Michael Lomax, President and CEO of the United Negro College Fund (UNCF); Rev. Aundreia Alexander of the National Council of Churches; and Venida and Raheem Browder, family of Kalief Browder.
“Over the last two years, there has been an increase in the number of our citizens that recognize faults in our nation’s criminal justice system and demand change. The introduction of the Law Enforcement Trust and Integrity Act responds to diminishment of public confidence in law enforcement, particularly at the state and local level,” said Conyers. “It is clear that improved national standards are necessary to address the ever-growing catalogue of incidents such as the case of Sandra Bland in Waller County, Texas where a routine traffic stop led to an arrest and a death-in-custody 72 hours later. It is critical that we adopt smarter approaches to dealing with those involved with the criminal justice system.”
“It is imperative that we in Congress act swiftly and decisively to tackle the issues plaguing our criminal justice system and causing great rifts between communities and law enforcement. By focusing on providing key resources and developing comprehensive legislative proposals that will improve policing strategies and rebuild trust between law enforcement and the communities that they serve, we can restore faith in the American criminal justice system,” said Jackson Lee. “But we cannot stop there, meaningful criminal justice reform must look at all the ways the system touches the lives of our young people, recognize that they are different, and take steps to treat them appropriately and humanely.”
Specifically, H.R. 2875, Law Enforcement Trust and Integrity Act of 2015, which is supported by 43 cosponsors, aims to:
· Help improve standards for law enforcement accreditation and encourage law enforcement agencies to obtain accreditation.
· Provide grants to state and local government and private organizations to develop pilot programs to implement best practices focused on law enforcement recruitment, training, hiring, management, and oversight of officers.
· Authorize funding assistance to the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and Community Relations Service.
· Create a task force within the Justice Department to coordinate investigations and cases involving instances of law enforcement misconduct that violates federal law.
· Establish better data collection concerning traffic stops, pedestrian stops and detentions, and use of deadly force by and against law enforcement officers.
At the press conference, Rep. Jackson Lee introduced three bills, which has the support of 40 cosponsors, that focus on sentencing and incarceration in the federal system, expungement and sealing of federal convictions, and humane confinement of youth. The legislation package is:
H.R. 3158, the Reforming Alternatives to Incarceration and Sentencing to Establish A Better Path for Youth Act of 2015 (RAISE Act):
· Expands the mandatory minimum safety valve for nonviolent incarcerated youth
· Increases the length of time an incarcerated youth can serve home confinement and expands the use of home confinement generally
· Ends mandatory life imprisonment for incarcerated youth and creates a review mechanism after 20 years for incarcerated youth serving decades long sentences to be transferred to supervised release
· Directs the Bureau of Prisons to provide specialized housing and programs for incarcerated youth
· Establishes pilot programs to give incarcerated youth the opportunity to receive mentorship and to obtain skills through government and community service
· Establishes pilot diversion programs for incarcerated youth who are high-risk, victims, or caretakers
· Limits the length of time an individual can be incarcerated for technical probation violations
H.R. 3156, The Fair Chance for Youth Act of 2015:
· Allows formerly incarcerated youth to petition and seek for expungement of federal misdemeanor and nonviolent drug offense convictions and sealing of federal nonviolent convictions
H.R. 3155, The Effective and Humane Treatment of Youth Act of 2015 or Kalief’s Law:
· Named in recognition of Kalief Browder, a young man who committed suicide after years of inhumane treatment in the Riker’s Correctional Facility, including two years of solitary confinement, would reauthorizes the Juvenile Accountability Block Grant program.
· Requires states receiving juvenile grant funding to implement policies and procedures to provide a right to speedy trial and timely bail consideration, and to ban youth solitary confinement
· Bans the use of solitary confinement for youth in federal facilities and allows the use of temporary separation in limited exigent circumstances that meet strict requirements
· Requires federal law enforcement to record all custodial interrogation of youth in federal custody and establishes preservation requirements and admissibility rules for such recordings
· Authorizes federal grant funds to support the recording of custodial interrogations by states
· Bans the shackling and restraint of youth during federal court appearances unless there are legitimate security concerns justifying the use of restraints
· Requires states receiving federal grant funding to implement policies and training programs specific to police-youth interactions.
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Click HERE for a list of supportive quotes from several advocacy groups including the NAACP, FAMM, and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
Click HERE for photos of the press conference.