Grassley Defends Sentencing Reform, Says Critics Wrong About Releases


NPR asks Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley (R-IA), why senators considering a sentencing reform bill aren’t repealing criticized mandatory minimum sentences outrigh? “As a practical matter, you’d never get a bill brought up” if it proposed to abolish all such penalties, he says, adding, “There’s still a feeling of great law enforcement value in mandatory minimums because when you have mandatory minimums, then there’s plea-bargaining, and when you get plea-bargaining, you can sometimes get a lot of information about a lot of people higher up the criminal chain.” Grassley says he favors some limited reform after seeing “some success in states doing this.)”

Asked about criticism of the bill by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) that passage would “lead to the release of thousands of violent felons,” Grassley said Cotton may not realize that nobody could be released from prison under the bill without appearing before a judge. And the prosecutor would be there as well. “And so just outright release into society is not possible under our bill,” Grassley said. After he defended mandatory minimums a year ago, Grassley has changed his thinking on the subject. “There’s been a lot of evidence from states making some reforms that have convinced me that we ought to make an effort to get a bipartisan, bicameral, legitimate compromise, and that would maintain mandatory minimums but give an impartial person like a judge an opportunity to make a decision that somebody is ready for reentry. And I felt that we needed to pass something – if I could find a compromise, that I ought to do it as a leader of the committee”.

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