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To: United States Senate and House of Representative
Support Sentencing Reform with Omega Psi Phi
Support Sentencing Reform
Why is this important?
Dear Member of Congress,
On behalf Omega Psi Phi, we urge you to co-sponsor and vote for S. 2123, the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015 and H.R. 3713, the Sentencing Reform Act of 2015. Recent decades have made it clear that our nation’s costly criminal justice system is in dire need of comprehensive reform. Today, nearly 1 in 100 American adults is incarcerated. America’s prison population, which has increased by 500 percent over the past thirty years, is the largest in the world. This growth is both unnecessary, and economically unsustainable.
Mass incarceration has hurt individuals and families in our state, and across the nation and it has had a disproportionate impact on the black community. We believe that the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act (S.2123) and the Sentencing Reform Act (H.R. 3713) offer the chance to begin making meaningful changes that move the federal government toward a system that is both fiscally responsible and truly ensures equal justice for all.
Decades of evidence and experience tell us that harsh sentencing regimes have done much more harm than good. The strict penalties designed to combat the distribution of illegal drugs did little to stem the drug trade, and swept low-level drug offenders into our ever-expanding criminal justice system. Furthermore, mandatory minimums have been used against defendants of color at a staggeringly disproportionate rate. Over the past several years, the U.S. Sentencing Commission has reported that about seventy percent of mandatory minimums are imposed on African American and Latino individuals.
Passage of the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act (S.2123) and the Sentencing Reform Act (H.R. 3713) would enact several much needed changes to our justice system. The bills would reduce the “three strikes” penalty that mandated a life sentence for people with prior drug offenses to a term of 25 years, as well as, reduce the 20-year sentences for a second strike to 15 years. Additionally, judges are given more discretion to sentence below prescribed mandatory minimums by the expansion of the existing “safety valve” and the creation of a new authority for judges to depart from the 10 year mandatory minimum for certain drug offenses. These measures work toward ensuring that strict mandatory minimums are not imposed on individuals who have little or no criminal history and whose alleged conduct was not the sort envisioned by these strict penalties. Finally, provisions of S.2123 also provide for the expansion of pre-release and reentry programming. These programs will assist incarcerated persons as they prepare for life after release and will help lower the chances that they will reoffend.
America is a nation of second chances. With these bills, individuals who had no hope of leaving prison now have the possibility of being given release dates and could look forward to returning home and rejoining their families and communities. By helping to reduce lengthy prison sentences for certain low level drug offenses and providing those currently incarcerated with the opportunity to petition the court for a reduction in their sentence, S.2123 and H.R. 3713 will serve as a powerful tools to right the wrongs of the past, ensure justice and equality moving forward, and become a launching pad for other necessary reforms in the future.
The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act and the Sentencing Reform Act are much needed first steps to creating a fairer criminal justice system, while also addressing the serious safety and budgetary problems that exist in the federal Bureau of Prisons. We urge you to support these crucial pieces of legislation, and vote in favor of reform.
Omega Psi Phi