Representative Sheila Jackson Lee

Representing the 18th District of TEXAS


Nov 18, 2015
Press Release
We stand at a unique moment, where a bipartisan consensus in Congress has emerged around the critical need to improve our criminal justice system, and the White House supports these efforts, states Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee

Washington, D.C. – Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, a Senior Member of the House Judiciary Committee released the following statement regarding the Sentencing Reform Act (H.R. 3713), which passed out of the House Judiciary Committee today by voice vote:

“Today we make a significant statement and take action towards reducing and eliminating mass incarceration in this nation. We take leaps of faith to recognize the importance of restoration and rehabilitation. This is not a compromise or best effort. It is actually a reality of laws and provisions that will in fact be placed in the criminal justice system giving added tools to defense counsel and prosecutors to have a fair and even playing field for those nonviolent offenders who have come in the cross hairs of the criminal justice system and need another opportunity. It will be a lifeline for families who have waited for years for their loved ones to be released.

“When we began this historic process a few months ago, there were many who doubted our ability to reach an agreement. Consensus is not something we see often in the Halls of Congress. We began our task with the knowledge that truly meaningful sentencing reform requires us to look at every piece of the system—from policing, to charging and convicting, and from sentencing, to the collateral consequences awaiting incarcerated individuals.

“As such, we set our sights on comprehensive reform that tackles sentencing, prisons, overcriminalization, youth justice, civil asset forfeiture, reentry, policing, criminal procedures, and, the most recent addition, mental illness. Each piece is critically necessary, but we knew that sentencing reform would truly test the seriousness of our commitment to collaboration. That is why we tackled it head on.

“With HR 3713 - the Sentencing Reform Act of 2015, we unify to reject a system that is often more effective at creating criminals and collateral damage than actual justice. This legislation is strong and thoughtful and, as shown by the data, it will reduce mass incarceration. Over 11,500 individuals, who are currently incarcerated, will be eligible for retroactive relief. Over 4,000 more will benefit each years. Combined, this is over 50,000 in ten years. These estimates are conservative, as not all the positive reforms can be quantified.

“There is something about our legislation that is different, something that gives me hope for our entire reform effort: our bipartisan legislation can get to the President. Our current path is unsustainable. We know the numbers: less than 5% of the world’s population, but 25% of the world’s prisoners; ranked 1st in incarceration with over 2.2 million incarcerated adults, another 4.75 million under supervision, and over 54,000 juveniles in detention; and our federal government is our largest jailer.

“The cost of this system is incredibly high, not just in dollars spent, but also in dollars lost. Every person put in a prison, is a person who cannot contribute to a family, community, or society. Worse, this system takes an incredible human toll, with the cycle of incarceration in a constant state of destruction.  These costs—including the cost to our greater sense of humanity—bring us to this moment. Enactment of this legislation will not fix the entire criminal justice system, but it will be a first step in the process of unburdening ourselves and our nation of these unbearable costs, repairing the damage we have inflicted, and replacing injustice with justice. I was pleased that an amendment in which I co-sponsored was accepted that would take into effect the mental condition of an offender who would be sentenced.

“We stand at a unique moment, where a bipartisan consensus in Congress has emerged around the critical need to improve our criminal justice system, and the White House supports these efforts.  We are closer than ever to achieving meaningful criminal justice reform, a legislative priority for President Obama, who has urged Congress to pass this bill. In remarks on criminal justice reform delivered earlier this month, discussing the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015 and the Sentencing Reform Act of 2015, the President said: ‘I urgently encourage both the Senate and the House to pass these bills.  It will not completely change the system overnight, but it will lock in some basic principles that we understand are going to make us a fairer and safer society over the long term.’ We should follow the President’s lead. I look forward to this Bill being signed into law.”