WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, issued the following statement after the Senate passed the First Step Act, a landmark bill to reform the criminal justice system.
“Our country’s criminal justice system is broken – and it has been broken for decades. You cannot deny justice to any American without it affecting all Americans. That’s why the passage of the First Step Act tonight is so meaningful – it begins to right past wrongs that continue to deny justice to millions of Americans.
“This bill is a step forward for our criminal justice system. By no means can it be the only step – it must be the beginning of a long effort to restore justice to our justice system.
“But for the first time in a long time, with the passage of this bill into law, our country will make a meaningful break from the decades of failed policies that led to mass incarceration, which has cost taxpayers billions of dollars, drained our economy, compromised public safety, hurt our children, and disproportionately harmed communities of color while devaluing the very idea of justice in America.”
Video of Booker speaking in support of the legislation on the Senate floor earlier this afternoon is available at the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RLpLrhJFFMk&feature=youtu.be
Booker is an original cosponsor of the First Step Act passed tonight, and was instrumental in pushing for the inclusion of key sentencing reform provisions in the bipartisan bill. Booker also fought to include his Mercy Act in the legislation, which effectively ends the solitary confinement of juveniles in federal supervision.
“Youth placed in solitary confinement face devastating consequences including depression, sleeplessness, psychosis, and hallucinations,” Sue Mangold, CEO of Juvenile Law Center, said. “Youth solitary confinement can lead to self-harm and even suicide. This reform package takes the important step of prohibiting the use of solitary confinement for youth in the federal justice system. We applaud Senator Booker for his tireless efforts to include this provision. The developing adolescent brain is especially harmed by solitary confinement. Every state should follow this federal lead to ban the use of solitary confinement of youth.”
Driven by his experience living and working in Newark and serving on its city council and as its mayor, Booker has made reforming our broken criminal justice system a key legislative priority during his time in the Senate. Over the past five years, Booker has introduced numerous criminal justice reform proposals, including: the REDEEM Act, the CARERS Act, the PRIDE Act, the MERCY Act, the Fair Chance Act, the Equal Justice Under Law Act, the Gideon Act, the Dignity for Incarcerated Women Act, the Reverse Mass Incarceration Act, and the Marijuana Justice Act.
In February 2015, Booker joined Senators Mike Lee (R-UT) and Richard Durbin (D-IL) to author the bipartisan Smarter Sentencing Act. After months of negotiations, in October 2015, Booker was part of a bipartisan group of Senators to announce a landmark comprehensive criminal justice reform compromise, the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act. The legislation was passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee, but didn’t advance through the Senate because Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) didn’t bring it up for a vote.
In October 2017, Booker and the co-authors of the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act renewed their push for comprehensive reform. Booker has worked publicly and behind the scenes since to advocate for meaningful reform that would impact those most marginalized by our broken criminal justice system. Booker’s opposition to a House-passed version of the First Step Act that purported to advance reform but represented a step in the wrong direction helped lead to today’s legislative success.
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