Congressmember Karen Bass has pushed for criminal justice reform her entire life. She fought over-aggressive sentencing and mass incarceration when she worked in South Los Angeles with the Community Coalition and continued that work in the California State House. In Congress, she chairs the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and has continued to push for national reform with a specific eye on the way women are treated in prisons and the resources available to returning citizens. During the COVID-19 pandemic, she led efforts to ensure that individuals serving short sentences for non-violent offenses in prison did not lose their lives because of unnecessary COVID-19 exposure.
Key Criminal Justice Initiatives
Congressmember Bass believes we should drastically reduce prison overcrowding by repealing harsh mandatory minimums and reserving the toughest sentences for serious criminals who threaten public safety. She has pushed to invest in community-oriented crime prevention and intervention efforts for struggling neighborhoods and at-risk youth and also worked to ensure that those who have paid their debt to society have reentry services and opportunities to live productive lives.
More on Criminal Justice
“After decades of increasingly punitive and failed juvenile justice policies, it’s time to take a step in a direction that recognizes that children are different than adults, that they have enormous potential for rehabilitation, change, and growth, and that we can do better to meet their developmental needs,” said Congresswoman Bass. “This applies to all children – no matter what they look like or where they grow up. I’m proud to join my colleagues in introducing this package to narrow the pipeline of children entering the criminal justice system.”
The bill will help reduce instances of reoffence by providing grants to community-based organizations and other eligible entities to create Community Reentry Centers to support formerly incarcerated people. According to a U.S. Sentencing Commission report, the average national recidivism rate is 49.3% over 8 years, in part because many people do not have access to resources like medical care, housing, and ID cards when they are released from prison.
“Studies have proven that punishing children the way we punish adults does not advance public safety,” said Rep. Karen Bass, co-Chair of the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth. “After decades of increasingly punitive and failed juvenile justice policies, it’s time to take a step in a direction that recognizes that children are different than adults, that they have enormous potential for rehabilitation, change, and growth, and that we can do better to meet their developmental needs.
NBC 4 Los Angeles:
“For decades, Mr. Jordan fought for the advancement of civil rights in this country. His contributions – first challenging segregation and discrimination as an activist in the 1960s and later continuing the fight in the leadership of the NAACP, the United Negro College Fund and then as President of the National Urban League – benefited us all. As Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, I had the absolute humbled honor of meeting with Mr. Jordan multiple times to discuss the challenges of our time, but also our hope and optimism for the future. While Mr.
Read more about the bill here.
"Chairwoman Bass, Ranking Member Jordan, and Members of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime:
"My name is Donte Westmoreland. Six weeks ago, I was sitting in a cell at the Lansing Correctional Facility in Kansas, serving nearly an 8-year sentence for allegedly selling (1pound) of marijuana. I received this very lengthy sentence even though I had a no criminal history score. . Fortunately, after serving nearly 4 years of my sentence, it came to light that prosecutors had concealed exculpatory evidence and my conviction was overturned.
Women are the fastest-growing incarcerated population in the United States and both pieces of legislation address the growing need for the humane treatment of these individuals and decreasing the chance of reoffending.