CONGRESSWOMAN SHEILA JACKSON LEE CALLS ON CONGRESS TO REJECT RUSHED, OVERBROAD AND UNNECESSARY CHANGES TO CRIMINAL LAWS AND WORK TO ENACT MEANINGFUL CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Robin K. Chand
September 7, 2018 202-225-3816
Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee Calls on Congress to Reject Rushed, Overbroad and Unnecessary Changes to Criminal Laws and Work to Enact Meaningful Criminal Justice Reform
Jackson Lee: “The bill is overbroad, unnecessary and could have substantial harmful effects because expanding the definition of certain crimes exacerbates the nagging societal predicament of enlarging the prison population. This is not merely a theoretical problem; rather, the lives of countless individuals—mostly black and brown men from poor and underserved neighborhood—hang in the balance.”
WASHINGTON, DC – Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations, and senior member of the House Committees on Judiciary, Homeland Security, and Budget issued this statement following House passage of H.R. 6691, the Community Safety and Security Act:
“The recognized—yet long overdue—need to reform our broken criminal justice system will not be helped by H.R. 6691, the “Community Safety and Security Act,” which was debated this morning on the floor of the House of Representatives. H.R. 6691 expands the group of crimes within the ambit of federal enforcement and adds alternative definitions to increase the number of federal crimes which will exacerbate the mass incarceration crisis. More importantly, this bill was rushed to the floor without any hearing or markup to receive the input of policy experts and practitioners.
“However well-intentioned, this bill haphazardly pushes forward an overly expansive definition of crime of violence. The bill is overbroad, unnecessary and could have substantial harmful effects because expanding the definition of certain crimes exacerbates the nagging societal predicament of enlarging the prison population. This is not merely a theoretical problem; rather, the lives of countless individuals—mostly black and brown men from poor and underserved neighborhood—hang in the balance.
“The statistics are illustrative. According to a recent report by the Pew Research Center, African Americans make up 33% of the prison population and Hispanics make up 23%. Therefore, together they make up 56% of the prisons population. For example, this bill alarmingly makes burglary a crime of violence, even where a person simply remains in a building without authorization and, while there, forming the intent to commit even a minor, non-violent offense. In sum, the bill’s aim is to justify more arrests and prosecutions and longer prison sentences. Not only does that implicate future arrests, it also complicates efforts to enact meaningful criminal justice reform, which this Congress acknowledged is in need of dire repair. For these reasons, I could not support this piece of legislation. I encourage all well-intentioned legislators to consider this and other efforts to reform our criminal justice system so that it may serve its ends and permit those within it the opportunity, if possible, to resume living normal, redeeming lives.”
Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee is a Democrat from Texas’s 18th Congressional District. She is a senior member of the House Committees on Judiciary and Homeland Security and is a Ranking Member of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations.