WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, announced his support of the bipartisan criminal justice reform package introduced in the Senate today.
Other cosponsors include Sens. Chuck Grassley (D-IA), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Mike Lee (R-UT), Lindsay Graham (R-SC), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).
Booker was instrumental in adding key sentencing provisions to the package after opposing the House-passed version of the First Step Act first released in May. The sentencing provisions in the final Senate compromise include: reducing the “three strikes” penalty from life in prison to 25 years; giving judges greater discretion to circumvent mandatory minimum sentences when warranted; eliminating the so-called “stacking” of mandatory minimum sentence enhancements related to certain firearm offenses; and making retroactive a 2010 law that reduced the egregious sentencing disparities between crack and powder cocaine -- disparities that overwhelmingly and disproportionately affect African-Americans. Booker also successfully fought to include provisions that effectively eliminate the solitary confinement of juveniles in federal supervision.
“The criminal justice reform compromise introduced in the Senate today is a step forward for our criminal justice system. It represents what must be the beginning of a long effort to right past wrongs that continue to deny justice to millions of Americans. I support this legislation and will work to build further support for it among my colleagues.
“This deal represents 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.
“This compromise is a far better and more comprehensive approach to reform than the flawed House-passed bill that I opposed earlier this year. First, it includes critical sentencing reform provisions that were left out of the House bill. Second, it addresses the flaws in the recidivism reduction plan I identified in the House bill that risked making racial disparities in our justice system worse. I’m also proud that this bill includes provisions that effectively end the solitary confinement of juveniles under federal supervision – changes that I’ve been fighting to make for years and that have broad bipartisan support. Their inclusion in this deal only makes this effort to reform our justice system stronger.”
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 the House-passed First Step Act that purported to advance reform but represented a step in the wrong direction helped lead to today’s groundbreaking compromise.