Wednesday, November 20, 2013

As the Prison Population Skyrockets, Conyers Urges Congress to Curb Mandatory Minimum Sentencing & Focus on Rehabilitation

(WASHINGTON) – Today, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee Overcriminalization Task Force held a hearing entitled, “Regulatory Crime: Solutions.” At the hearing, Mr. John S. Baker, Jr., Ph.D. - a visiting professor at Georgetown Law School - and Mr. Lucian E. Dervan - an assistant professor at Southern Illinois University School of Law - testified, advocating for a rethink in the United States’ criminal justice system. After the task force hearing, Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) issued the following statement:

U.S. Representative
John Conyers, Jr.
“With more than 700 out of every 100,000 Americans behind bars in the United States, we have more people incarcerated than any other nation. Some lawmakers on both sides of the aisle know that we have a serious problem on our hands. Since the 1980s, the United States prison population has more than quadrupled, meaning that today 2.3 million Americans are in prison.  At the same time, the number of African Americans behind bars is disproportionately larger than their share of the general population. This situation is an affront to our sense of justice, and must be remedied,” said Conyers.

“An increasing number of Congressmen are concerned about the impact of overcriminalization, and the creation of the Overcriminalization Task Force is a testament to their commitment to reverse this trend in the United States. This can be accomplished through a combination of several measures. First, Congress could act to rescind mandatory minimum sentences that have aggravated the problem of over-sentencing in court rooms and over-crowding in prisons. Mandatory minimum sentencing disproportionately impacts the minority communities and African American men in particular. In addition, Congress should pursue efforts to reduce recidivism, such as the bipartisan Second Chance Act reauthorization that former Judiciary Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.) and I introduced this week, which provides for improved re-entry and educational services for those exiting prison.

“Overcriminalization tears apart families, shatters neighborhoods, and is a stain on our criminal justice system. As the Overcriminalization Task Force continues its important work, I hope we can focus our energies on promoting rehabilitation, recidivism, and curbing mandatory minimum sentencing.”
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