Two years after beginning an intensive, comprehensive review of the federal criminal justice system as the leaders of the Over-Criminalization Task Force, Representatives Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) and Bobby Scott (D-VA) today introduced bipartisan, state-tested legislation aimed at safely reining in the size and associated costs of the federal criminal code and prison system.The Safe, Accountable, Fair, and Effective (SAFE) Justice Act of 2015 takes a broad-based approach to improving the federal sentencing and corrections system, from front-end sentencing reform to back-end release policies. It is also the first bill that addresses the federal supervision system – ensuring that probation does a better job stopping the revolving door at federal prisons. The legislation, which is inspired by the successes of states across the country, will reduce recidivism, concentrate prison space on violent and career criminals, increase the use of evidence-based alternatives to incarceration, curtail over-criminalization, reduce crime, and save money.
“We cannot allow our criminal justice system to remain on its current trajectory,” said Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI). “It’s not only fiscally unsustainable, but morally irresponsible. The states have been outperforming Congress on criminal justice reform for years, so today’s introduction of the SAFE Justice Act is a major step forward in implementing effective, meaningful reform on the federal level that will enact fairness in sentencing, reduce the taxpayer burden, and ensure the increased safety and prosperity of communities across the country.”
Similar to the successful reform packages enacted in many states, the SAFE Justice Act aligns the federal prison system with the science about what works to reform criminal behavior. It reflects the growing consensus among researchers that, for many offenders, tacking more months and years onto long prison terms is a high-cost, low-return approach to public safety. It also looks to the growing number of practices in correctional supervision that are shown to reduce recidivism.
“Our criminal justice system is long overdue for reform,” stated Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) “Chairman Sensenbrenner and I have been working tirelessly for months to find common ground and bipartisan solutions to this problem. The SAFE Justice Act implements the successful, evidence-based reforms from the states and restores accountability, fairness and rationality to our federal criminal justice system. Most importantly, it utilizes an evidence-based approach to reduce overcriminalization and overincarceration and reinvests the savings into community based prevention and early-intervention programs to improve public safety.”
In the past 10 years, the federal imprisonment rate has jumped by 15 percent while the states’ rate has declined 4 percent. The drop in the states’ imprisonment rate, which occurred alongside sustained reductions in crime, can be attributed in large part to the more than two dozen states that have enacted comprehensive, evidence-based corrections reforms.
“I congratulate Mr. Sensenbrenner and Mr. Scott for their determined and careful work,” stated Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-ID), a member of the House Judiciary Committee. “This bill accelerates momentum building across the political spectrum for criminal justice reforms that protect the public, while offering smart alternatives to punishment.”
“I am proud to co-sponsor the SAFE Justice Act and I commend my colleagues, Mr. Scott and Mr. Sensenbrenner, for their commitment to reaching a bipartisan solution to reform our criminal justice system,” stated Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-IL), a member of the House Judiciary Committee. “So often, minorities and youth are casualties of a harsh institution that imposes incarceration and impedes rehabilitation. This bill is a comprehensive overhaul that will focus on crime and violence prevention on the front end while making strategic investments in young people rather than simply treating all young people with a one size fits all criminal justice approach.”
“The SAFE Justice Act will finally spark an important discussion that should have happened long ago,” stated Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL). “Improving our criminal justice system will not only save money for the American taxpayer, but it will also reduce recidivism and restrain an ever-expanding federal government. I commend Representatives Sensenbrenner and Scott for introducing this bipartisan, comprehensive bill.”
“The criminal justice system is consistently failing the American people. We incarcerate far too many of our citizens for far too long, spending too much on punishments without rehabilitation and leaving the public less safe,” stated Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-LA). “The systemic problems with our justice system call for broad, comprehensive reform. The SAFE Act will take that step, addressing a wide range of issue to ensure that our justice system uses incarceration for violent and dangerous criminals. Giving individuals who have made mistakes the opportunity to better themselves and walk the right path is not only the right thing to do it will also save millions of tax payer dollars. I am proud to join my colleagues in this bipartisan effort to create a more efficient judicial system that will actually keep us safer.”
“Over-criminalization is an example of a larger issue for my constituents in Utah: That government has gotten too big and too intrusive,” stated Rep. Mia Love (R-UT). “The Federal Government should follow Utah’s example when it comes to implementing smarter policies to reduce crime, such as finding alternatives to incarceration whenever possible. I am pleased to cosponsor the SAFE Justice Act.”
“This is a historic bill. It is the result of years of efforts to identify, compile, and bring to the national level the best, evidence-based practices in criminal justice reform. Through the SAFE Justice Act, we can finally tackle massive, necessary changes to our criminal justice system in a bipartisan way,” stated Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD). “Importantly, we can also reinvest savings into efforts that rebuild the relationship between the public and the police, and make sure law enforcement officers have what they need to do their jobs. I know the SAFE Justice Act will mean great strides for the future of communities like Baltimore, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to make sure it passes.”
“I have personally witnessed the good work of mental health courts and the veterans treatment courts. These programs, along with some of the other reforms in this bill, have already been implemented in my home state of Georgia, and we have already started to reap the benefits,” stated Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA). “The SAFE Justice Act would keep violent offenders behind bars where they belong, but also provides a path to a people-centered approach for those who have just lost their way.”
“Reducing crime and advancing meaningful criminal justice reform are not mutually exclusive goals,” stated Rep. Scott Rigell (R-VA), who noted that similar reforms enacted in 32 states across America have reduced rates of crime and imprisonment in those states and have returned millions of dollars for reinvestment in programs designed to improve public safety. “The SAFE Justice Act makes evidence-driven reforms that will reduce recidivism, over-criminalization, and over-incarceration without diminishing the integrity of our federal criminal justice system. I commend my colleagues, Mr. Scott and Mr. Sensenbrenner, for their commitment to improving public safety and saving taxpayer dollars.”
The SAFE Justice Act will:
Reduce recidivism by –
• incentivizing completion of evidence-based prison programming and activities through expanded earned time credits;
• implementing swift, certain, and proportionate sanctions for violations of supervision; and
• offering credits for compliance with the conditions of supervision.
Concentrate prison space on violent and career criminals by –
• focusing mandatory minimum sentences on leaders and supervisors of drug trafficking organizations;
• modestly expanding the drug trafficking safety valve (an exception to mandatory minimums) for offenders who provide substantial assistance to the government; and
• creating release valves for lower-risk geriatric and terminally-ill offenders.
Increase use of evidence-based sentencing alternatives by –
• encouraging greater use of probation and problem-solving courts for appropriate offenders; and
• creating a performance-incentive funding program to better align the interests of the Bureau of Prisons and federal judicial districts.
Curtail over-criminalization by –
• requiring regulatory criminal offenses to be compiled and published for the public;
• ensuring fiscal impact statements are attached to all future sentencing and corrections proposals; and
• charging the Department of Justice, the Bureau of Prisons, and the Administrative Office of the Courts with collecting key outcome performance measures.
Reduce crime by –
• investing in evidence-based crime prevention initiatives; and
• increasing funding for community based policing and public safety initiatives.
Additional information about the SAFE Justice Act:
• Bill Text
• Two-Page Summary
Today, Congressman Sensenbrenner introduced legislation to sunset the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) after 2022 if the EPA waived specific volume requirements.
The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 created what is known as the “reset” section of the RFS. If the EPA Administrator waives applicable volumes of the RFS by at least 20 percent for two consecutive years, or by at least 50 percent for a single year, then the EPA is required to modify subsequent RFS volumes starting in 2016. Sensenbrenner’s RFS Sunset legislation is based on the reset section of the EISA of 2007.
Congressman Sensenbrenner: “The RFS mandates have proven to be an unworkable policy that requires constant updating by the EPA Administrator. In May, the EPA finally released the volume requirements for 2014; 18 months late. If that doesn’t prove that the RFS is bad policy, then I don’t know what does. We haven’t succeeded in repealing the RFS, so it’s time we look forward to a sunset.”
Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) today sent the following letter to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy regarding his earlier request for the EPA’s position on numerous enquiries, including E15 labels, misfueling, and Clean Air Act enforcement:
Dear Administrator McCarthy:
I write to you regarding my letter dated May 12, 2015. The letter requested a response by June 1, 2015, but to date, we have not received one.
I specifically asked for a June 1 response because the summer volatility season begins that day, and the EPA’s position is of great interest to the American public. Consumers have a right to know that fuels are safe and that retailers are using approved labels to prevent misfueling. And Congress has to have confidence that the EPA is enforcing labeling requirements and Section 211(h)(1) of the Clean Air Act.
I look forward to your prompt response.Read More
Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) today sent the following letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch regarding the Justice Department’s (DOJ) application of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and its potential impact on Wisconsin’s school voucher program, which the Congressman strongly supports:
Dear Attorney General Lynch:
I understand that your agency is in receipt of my letter dated March 19, 2015, regarding the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) years-long federal investigation into the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP). It is my hope that your agency is working expeditiously to draft a response as promised by your predecessor.
As I said in my previous letter, the intent of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is clear and should not be misapplied. I continue to worry that the DOJ is inappropriately applying ADA standards intended for public schools against private institutions. The incorrect application of Title II ADA standards will have a devastating effect on the sustainability of MPCP, a program that serves 26,930 means-tested, low-income students. Congress crafted the dual standard explicitly to avoid these hardships.
Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter, and I look forward to a reply very soon.Read More
U.S. Representative Jim Sensenbrenner, author of the Judicial Redress Act in the U.S. House of Representatives, applauds the efforts of U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.),a member of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in the introduction of the Judicial Redress Act of 2015 in the U.S. Senate.
Congressman Sensenbrenner: “As stewards of U.S. policy, both foreign and domestic, it is the responsibility of Congress to act in the best interest of both America, and her trusted allies. The introduction of the Judicial Redress Act in the United States Senate is a major step forward in ensuring we maintain important international relationships and promote safety and prosperity in the ever-changing space of data and technology. I applaud the bipartisan efforts of Senators Hatch and Murphy, and their continued work on this critical issue.”Read More
Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) received a letter from United States Trade Representative Michael Froman in response to his inquiry about the inclusion of climate change provisions in Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) legislation. Congressman Sensenbrenner issued the following statement upon receiving Ambassador Froman’s letter:
Congressman Sensenbrenner: “International climate change negotiations have the potential to fundamentally restructure the U.S. economy. It is imperative that they are kept separate from trade negotiations and that an international climate agreement is not agreed to by anything less than a treaty, fully-ratified by the U.S. Senate. As a Member of Congress with over two decades of experience with climate change policy, I am pleased to hear that the Administration will not attempt to shoehorn climate talks into trade negotiations. The USTR promised that the TPA would not give the President ‘any new authority to enter climate change agreements.’ If Congress grants the Administration TPA, I intend to work vigilantly to ensure the Administration stands by that pledge and that Congress plays a role in any future climate agreement.”Read More
2449 Rayburn HOB
Washington, DC 20515
F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr., (Jim), represents the Fifth Congressional District of Wisconsin. The Fifth District includes parts of Milwaukee, Dodge and Waukesha counties, and all of Washington and Jefferson counties.
Jim was born in Chicago and later moved to Wisconsin with his family. He graduated from the Milwaukee Country Day School and did his undergraduate studies at Stanford University, where he majored in political science. He then earned his law degree at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1968.
After serving ten years in the Wisconsin State Legislature, Jim ran for a U.S. House seat and was elected in November, 1978. He has been reelected since 1980.
Jim’s current committee assignments include serving on the Committee on Science and Technology and the Committee on the Judiciary. Congressman Sensenbrenner is Chairman of the Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Oversight Subcommittee. He is also a member of the Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and Internet, and the Subcommittees on Environment and Oversight.
He is the former Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, and as a long-serving committee member, Jim has established a strong record on crime, intellectual property and constitutional issues. Previously, Jim also served as Chairman of the House Committee on Science, where he solidified his reputation as an independent leader on science issues, as well as oversight.
Throughout his public life, Jim has been at the forefront of efforts to preserve the sanctity of life, eliminate wasteful government spending and protect the interests of American taxpayers. He has regularly been cited by the National Taxpayers Union as one of the most fiscally responsible House Members and is well known for completing his financial disclosure forms down to the penny.
Jim is proud of his many legislative achievements that have helped improve the lives of many during his tenure in Congress.
In 1977, Jim married Cheryl Warren of Green Bay, Wisconsin, a staunch advocate for the rights of the disabled. They have two adult children, Frank and Bob. In his free time, Jim enjoys watching the Packers and reading.
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