Most of the attention on potential federal criminal justice reform has been focused on bills pending in the U.S. Senate, but today there is some action in the House. The bipartisan duo of Reps. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) and Bobby Scott (D-VA) are introducing the Safe, Accountable, Fair, and Effective (SAFE) Justice Act, which results largely from an 18-month study by a House Judiciary Committee Task force on Overcriminalization. Sensenbrenner and Scott say they are taking “a broad-based approach to improving the federal sentencing and corrections system, from front-end sentencing reform to back-end release policies.”
They say their bill was inspired by state reforms, and that if enacted, it would “reduce recidivism, concentrate prison space on violent and career criminals, increase the use of evidence-based alternatives to incarceration, curtail overcriminalization, reduce crime, and save money.” The New York Times says the measure would have most first-time, low-level, nonviolent drug offenders sentenced to probation rather than prison and would give judges more discretion to grant leniency. On the use of evidence in policymaking, the Times asked, “Isn't all legislation evidence-based?” Sensenbrenner replied, “No! No! No!” Scott added that is especially the case with criminal-justice bills.