House Criminal Justice Hearing Touts State Reform Successes


A House of Representatives Oversight Committee hearing yesterday on criminal justice reform added to the bipartisan push for federal legislation, rooted in state successes and touted by members in both chambers of Congress, the White House and interest groups across the ideological spectrum, Legal Times reports. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform ranking member, said, “We must strive to turn the moment into a movement.”

The hearing, led by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), featured Sens. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Cory Booker (D-NJ), Reps. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) and Bobby Scott (D-VA), and Govs. Robert Bentley (R-AL) and Jack Markell (D-DE). “The nationwide crime wave of the late ’80s and early ’90s is no more,” said Cornyn, a former Texas attorney general and state Supreme Court justice. He highlighted his home state’s smart-on-crime initiative that began in 2007 in the face of a major budget shortfall and overcrowded prisons, and included a halt in prison construction, new funding for recidivism reduction programs, and an option for lower-risk inmates to serve out parts of their sentences at home or in alternative facilities. Sensenbrenner and Scott pitched their SAFE Justice Act to the committee as the right vehicle to drive reform. “The SAFE Justice Act brings together some of the best ideas from the states and of current proposals,” Sensenbrenner said.

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