House Judiciary Leaders Introduce Their Own Sentencing Reform Plan

Several key U.S. House leaders introduced a federal sentencing reform plan today, a week after a bipartisan coalition of senators introduced a similar bill to give judges the discretion to sentence some offenders to less than federal mandatory minimums, the Associated Press reports. While the House bill is not so broad as the Senate legislation, the two bills may foreshadow some of the most sweeping changes to sentencing guidelines in decades. Conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee announced the legislation today. Supporters include House Judiciary Committee Chairman Robert Goodlatte (R-VA), Michigan Rep. John Conyers, the panel's top Democrat, and Texas Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee.

Like the Senate bill, the House legislation would eliminate mandatory life sentences for three-time, nonviolent offenders, reducing those minimum sentences to 25 years. It would apply those reductions retroactively, except for offenders who have prior serious violent felony convictions that resulted in a prison sentence of greater than 13 months. The provisions are summarized here. The House legislation deal only with sentencing reform. Goodlatte and Conyers said they plan to introduce additional bills soon on other criminal justice issues, including prison and re-entry reform and juvenile justice. In June, another bipartisan team in the House, Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) and Bobby Scott (D-VA) proposed their own criminal justice reform plan, which was described in The Crime Report. It is not clear yet whether a sentencing reform plan can clear Congress this year.


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