Washington, D.C. – House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Ranking Member John Conyers (D-Mich.) today announced a criminal justice reform initiative. Over the coming months, the House Judiciary Committee, which has primary jurisdiction over the U.S. Criminal Code, will take a step-by-step approach to address a variety of criminal justice issues, including over-criminalization, sentencing reform, prison and reentry reform, protecting citizens through improved criminal procedures and policing strategies, and civil asset forfeiture reform.
To begin this process, on June 25, 2015 the House Judiciary Committee will host a criminal justice reform listening session at which any interested Member of the House of Representatives may schedule time to present his or her reform proposal or legislation to the Committee. Then over the coming months, the Committee will consider legislation to address criminal justice reforms.
Chairman Goodlatte and Ranking Member Conyers issued the joint statement on the Committee’s initiative.
“Criminal justice is about punishing law-breakers, protecting the innocent, the fair administration of justice, and fiscal responsibility in a manner that is responsive to the needs of communities. Congress has the responsibility to ensure that our criminal justice system metes out appropriate and effective justice. The Committee’s initiative will pursue responsible, common sense criminal justice reforms to make sure our federal laws and regulations punish wrongdoers, protect individual freedom, work as efficiently and fairly as possible, do not duplicate state efforts, and do not waste taxpayer dollars.
“In the coming months, the House Judiciary Committee will work on a bipartisan basis to identify necessary improvements to our criminal justice system. This month, the Committee will hear from any Member of the House of Representatives who has an idea to improve our nation’s criminal justice system. The goal of the Committee’s initiative is to produce strong, bipartisan legislation so that the criminal justice system better reflects core American values and works for America.”
Background: In the 113th Congress, the House Judiciary Committee launched the Over-Criminalization Task Force. The Task Force held over a dozen hearings on issues facing the criminal justice system, such as over-federalization, regulatory crime, criminal penalties, and prison reform, among other topics. In the 114thCongress, solutions identified by the Task Force have started to be implemented. One small – yet very important – step is that the House Judiciary Committee’s jurisdiction over criminal matters has been strengthened in the Rules Package adopted earlier this year, which ensures that the Committee has the opportunity to review all new federal criminal laws and ensure that they are appropriately drafted, fit with the overall federal criminal law scheme, are appropriate in force relative to other criminal laws, and are necessary.