Press Releases

House Judiciary Committee Approves Bipartisan Sentencing Reform Legislation

Washington, DC, November 18, 2015

The House Judiciary Committee today approved by voice vote bipartisan legislation to reform federal sentencing laws.  The Sentencing Reform Act of 2015 (H.R. 3713) – authored by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), Ranking Member John Conyers (D-Mich.), Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations Subcommittee Ranking Member Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), Congressman Raul Labrador (R-Idaho), and Congressman Mike Bishop (R-Mich.) – is part of the House Judiciary Committee’s ongoing bipartisan criminal justice reform initiative.

The Sentencing Reform Act of 2015 reduces certain mandatory minimums for drug offenses, including the three-strike mandatory life sentence to 25 years and the second-strike mandatory sentence from 20 to 15 years. It broadens the mechanism for non-violent drug offenders to be sentenced below the mandatory minimum sentence and provides judges in those cases with greater discretion in determining appropriate sentences.

Significantly, the Sentencing Reform Act of 2015 contains important limitations on retroactivity to ensure that serious violent criminals serve the full time for their crimes in federal prison and do not get out of prison early. It also contains sentencing enhancements for Fentanyl trafficking, a highly addictive and deadly drug that is becoming a growing epidemic in the United States.  

Below are statements from the authors of this bipartisan Sentencing Reform Act of 2015 on today’s Committee approval of the bill.

Chairman Goodlatte: “The House Judiciary Committee has been hard at work on a number of bills to improve our nation’s criminal justice system and I am pleased that we have approved a bipartisan solution to reform federal sentencing requirements. The Sentencing Reform Act makes commonsense changes to federal sentencing laws to ensure our federal laws effectively and appropriately punish wrongdoers, work as efficiently and fairly as possible, and do not waste taxpayer dollars. It also ensures that serious violent criminals do not benefit from these reforms and serve the full time for their crimes in prison. The House Judiciary Committee will continue to work on other issues facing our criminal justice system and will unveil additional bills over the coming weeks.”

Ranking Member Conyers: “I am pleased that the Committee today approved the Sentencing Reform Act, an important bill that provides a number of improvements to federal sentencing, any one of which would be considered a significant achievement standing alone.  These changes will still allow for appropriate punishment and will actually make us safer.  They will also save money by reducing the spending associated with needlessly long incarceration.  In the future, I hope we will do even more to address this issue, but with this bill we have the opportunity – on a bipartisan basis – to address some of the injustices of these laws, including mandatory minimum sentencing, and to retroactively provide relief for some of those who have been subject to them.”  

Crime Subcommittee Ranking Member Jackson Lee: “HR 3713 - the Sentencing Reform Act of 2015 offers significant and positive sentencing reforms. I want to applaud the bipartisan effort that has taken place over the past several months to draft and introduce this critical legislation. Now that it has passed out of Committee, I want to urge my Colleagues in the House to support its passage. By helping to reduce lengthy prison sentences for certain non-violent drug offenses and providing those currently incarcerated with the opportunity to petition the court for a reduction in their sentence, this bill will serve as a powerful tool to right the wrongs of the past, ensure justice and equality moving forward, and become a launching pad for other necessary reforms in the future. I sincerely hope that this is merely the first step towards creating a more just and rational criminal justice system for the nation and its citizens.”

Congressman Labrador: “Today the House Judiciary Committee seized an opportunity to make history. A bipartisan coalition came together to advance reforms that address the mistakes of the past and establish a positive framework for the future. Our Sentencing Reform Act ensures law enforcement officers have the tools they need to protect us from dangerous criminals, while giving non-violent offenders the chance to turn their lives around and contribute to society. I thank Chairman Goodlatte, Ranking Member Conyers and our many partners in this just cause.”

Congressman Bishop: “I applaud my House Judiciary colleagues for coming together in support of this bipartisan reform to our nation’s federal sentencing guidelines. This fiscally and socially responsible legislation takes the right steps to provide flexible sentencing for those who deserve it, while still ensuring the safety of our families and local communities remains the number one priority. We can and must do more to address the problems in our criminal justice system today, and the Sentencing Reform Act will be an important part of that process.”

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Letters of Support for H.R. 3713:

Sentencing Projects

Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

Coalition for Public Safety

Families Against Mandatory Minimums

American Bar Association

Drug Policy Alliance

American Civil Liberties Union

James Felman

Professor Douglas Berman

Cynthia Orr