The rise of Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) to head of Judiciary Committee has made criminal-justice reform advocates nervous, says the National Journal. Four months ago, it appeared that reducing federal mandatory minimum sentences had overcome crucial hurdles. But like many conservatives who came to power in an era when Republicans branded themselves as the “tough on crime” party, Grassley made it clear that he sees the steady reduction in violent crime as a direct reflection of more-effective policing strategies. He believes that mandatory minimum laws that ensure criminals stay locked up have been key to that progress.
With Grassley in charge, the path forward for criminal-justice reform will likely look very different than it did when the Senate was controlled by Democrats until this year. Next week, Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), will introduce a bill similar to what was known as the Recidivism Reduction and Public Safety Act in the last Congress, focusing on transitioning prisoners back into the community after they have served their time. Grassley supported it last year, but it is not a reduction in mandatory minimums. Grassley has listed the top three goals for the committee as reforms in laws on juvenile justice, patents, and prisons, but it’s not clear how far Grassley will go.