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Call our Senators, please, for Sentencing Reform

posted Nov 24, 2015, 2:15 PM by Sophia Webmaster
The ROC Wisconsin workgroup for issues related to keeping people out of prison asks that WISDOM members and friends of ROC Wisconsin please take a couple of minutes before the Thanksgiving holiday to call our two U.S. Senators to strongly urge them to support the  “Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015”  (U.S. Senate Bill 2123).

The phone numbers for Wisconsin's Senators are:
  Senator Ron Johnson -- (202) 224-5323
  Senator Tammy Baldwin -- (202) 224-5653

It will just take a minute.  You just need to identify yourself, and say where you live, and ask the person answering the phone to tell the Senator that you want them to vote for the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015, or Senate Bill 2123.

The bill itself deals with federal crimes and the federal corrections system, and it is a compromise.  But, it is a significant step forward -- one that we can hold up to our state legislature as a model of how they can start doing some meaningful sentencing reform.  Below are some facts about the bill, which Carol Rubin provided after a conference call with the Sentencing Project:

1.  It will reduce mandatory minimum sentencing by:  a) expanding the judicial 1994 safety valve provision; and b) it will add another valve which will help African-Americans.

2.  The Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, which reduced but did not eliminate the sentencing disparity between cocaine and crack, will be applied retroactively, cutting sentences by approximately 20% for individuals who petition the court. This is huge, and could speed up the release of thousands of currently incarcerated people.

3.  Rehabilitative programs (treatment alternatives, education, mental health programs, vocational training, etc) will be increased in prisons and halfway houses. A separate bill is being worked on for re-entry. Taking such courses can decrease the length of sentence.

4.  Reduces Three Strikes and You're Out Law from lifetime incarceration to 25 years.

5.  Changes sentencing “stacking” provisions from 25 years to 15 years.

6.  Reduces the “Armed Career Criminal Act” minimal mandatory from 25 years to 15 and makes it retroactive.

7.  Adds two new mandatory minimal sentencing for:  a) cross state border domestic abuse; and b) certain terrorism crimes.

8.  Imposes limitations on juvenile solitary confinement (which affects few).

This bill has a good chance to pass, and it already has bi-partisan support in both houses.  Our calls will let our Senators know that it needs to be a high priority.