Statement of House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. Criminal Justice Reform Listening Session
“I commend Chairman Goodlatte for convening today’s listening session on criminal justice reform. For decades, we in Congress reacted to the justifiable concern of our citizens about crime. We developed and enacted legislation intended to make us safer and to achieve justice. Over time, it has become increasingly apparent to citizens and public officials from across the political spectrum that some of our laws are not achieving these goals. In fact, some of them are actually counterproductive from the standpoint of public safety, fairness, and fiscal responsibility.
“There are a number of areas that urgently require reform, as the Chairman has acknowledged in the materials we jointly issued inviting Members to testify. I want to highlight several areas that I hope will be priorities for action:
“We need to take steps to ensure that sentences are appropriately long, but are not set beyond levels that no longer serve legitimate criminal justice purposes. Our prisons are overcrowded because of one-size-fits-all sentencing policies. Mandatory minimum sentencing leads not only to unjust outcomes for individuals, but also has serious systemic consequences by contributing to the problem of overincarceration.
“We must take additional steps to address the collateral consequences of incarceration and other involvement with the criminal justice system. We are not adequately preparing those in prison for successful reintegration into the community, and consequences such as the loss of voting rights and diminished employment prospects are needlessly hindering the ability of too many of our citizens to productively participate in society.
“We must also take action to improve the relationship between our police and the public they serve. That is why the Ranking Member on the Crime Subcommittee, Ms. Jackson Lee, joined me and others yesterday in introducing the Law Enforcement Trust and Integrity Act.
“This bill provides incentives for local police organizations to voluntarily adopt performance-based standards to ensure that incidents of misconduct will be minimized through appropriate management, training and oversight protocols and that if such incidents do occur, that they will be properly investigated. Our nation’s police officers face danger on a daily basis to protect us from harm and to bring criminals to justice.
“They deserve our respect and support – and I believe this bill will serve to strengthen the critical bond between communities and those who enforce our laws.
“We need to address these issues, as well as all of those Chairman Goodlatte and I have outlined as we announced the process for considering reform proposals. We will hear a wide range of proposals from our colleagues today to address these and other critical issues, and I look forward to working with the Chairman and other Members of the Committee to expeditiously consider legislation to improve our criminal justice system.”