Press Releases

Conyers, Jackson Lee Commend President Obama for Additional Commutations of Sentences; Call For Congressional Action on Sentencing Reform

Washington, DC, November 4, 2016

House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI) and House Judiciary Crime Subcommittee Ranking Member Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) today released the following statements after the White House announced the commutation of the sentences of 72 individuals:

“I welcome the continued work by the President and his administration in commuting sentences, but the need to do so indicates the depth of the problem with our Federal sentencing laws,” said Ranking Member Conyers. “Congress must address this issue, to make sentences more fair at the front end.   We know that we can do this in a way that still imposes appropriate sentences but does not rely on mandatory minimums, which ignore the facts and circumstances of each case.  With the growing bipartisan recognition of the need to act, I am hopeful that we will do so in the near future.”

“I commend President Obama’s commutation of sentences of 72 individuals – who were all victims of unjust sentencing,” said Crime Subcommittee Ranking Member Jackson Lee.  “Nearly all of these men and women would have been released and contributing back to society already had they been convicted under today’s laws or reform proposals. I welcome and applaud the commutations of the sentences of these individuals.  Incarcerating people for unwarranted lengths of time serves no constructive purpose.  The President has recognized this, as has Attorney General Loretta Lynch, and I am pleased that the Administration’s Clemency Project continues to address the multitude of cases in which sentence reductions are appropriate.  Of course, the need to engage in such a broad review of sentences exists largely because our sentencing laws and policies, particularly for drug offenses, urgently need to be changed.  We need to eliminate mandatory minimum sentencing and let judges impose appropriate sentences based on the facts and circumstances of each case, and we should eliminate the higher penalties for crack cocaine relative to powder cocaine offenses.  I am heartened that there is a growing, bipartisan recognition of the problem of over incarceration and I hope this will lead to sentencing reform this Congress.”

Congressman Conyers and Congresswoman Jackson Lee are cosponsors of the Sentencing Reform Act of 2015, which is the first bill that is a result of the House Judiciary Committee’s criminal justice reform initiative.  The Sentencing Reform Act of 2015 reduces certain mandatory minimums for drug offenses, reduces the three-strike mandatory life sentence to 25 years, broadens the existing safety valve for low-level drug offenders, and provides judges with greater discretion in determining appropriate sentences.