Many of our criminal justice policies are good; they protect our loved ones and communities. At the same time, far too many of our laws are ineffective or do more harm than good. I am committed to reforming criminal justice so that it is sensible, effective and consistent with our notions of equality and fairness.
Key Justice Initiatives
As a member of the House Judiciary Committee, and its Task Force on Over-Criminalization, I am urging reforms that will improve criminal justice. I believe we could drastically reduce prison overcrowding by repealing harsh mandatory minimums and reserving the toughest sentences for serious criminals who threaten public safety. We should invest in community-oriented crime prevention and intervention efforts for struggling neighborhoods and at-risk youth. In addition, we need to ensure that those who have paid their debt to society have reentry services and opportunities to live productive lives.
- Identifying criminal justice policies that are discriminatory or counterproductive
- Focusing resources on community-oriented services to help at-risk youth and neighborhoods
- Advocating for reentry services to help ex-offenders become productive citizens
- “SUCCESS Act” (H.R. 3510)—Repeals the law that strips young people of needed college aid after being convicted of even minor drug offenses
- “Youth Prison Reduction through Opportunities, Mentoring, Intervention, Support, and Education Act” (H.R.1318)—Supports juvenile delinquency and gang prevention and intervention to help build individual, family and community strength
- “Student Disciplinary Fairness Act” (H.R. 3153)—Establishes an Office of School and Discipline Policy to reduce the number of children incarcerated based on activity at school
- Universal "RESPECT Act” (H.R. 3560)—Prohibits federal law enforcement from engaging in racial profiling
- “Smarter Sentencing Act” (H.R. 3382)—Reduces certain 20-year, 10-year and 5-year mandatory-minimum drug sentences to 10, 5 and 2 years. It also permits federal prisoners imprisoned for crack offenses to seek fairer punishments
- “Justice Safety Valve Act” (H.R. 1695)—Allows a court to sentence below the mandatory minimum if the mandatory minimum is too harsh
Criminal Justice Issues in California’s 37th District
More on Criminal Justice
“Our prison system was not created with women in mind and as a result continually fails to provide basic necessities to tens of thousands of individuals who are incarcerated every single day,” said Congressmember Bass. “Especially amid a pandemic, it is incumbent upon Congress to ensure that we are not inadvertently matching petty crimes with death sentences. I’m proud to be introducing this bipartisan bill to make sure that we are mindful and responsible for the health and wellness of pregnant women in prison.
In their letter, the Members note that “the USMS is responsible for the care of individuals charged with federal offenses, from the time they are arrested and ordered detained pretrial to the time they are either ordered released from USMS custody or are convicted and transported to serve their sentences in a BOP facility. The USMS does not operate its own jails, but it contracts with approximately 1,200 state and local government agencies, as well as with private facilities, for housing detainees.
In December 2017, the Department of Homeland Security updated its policy on the detention of pregnant woman that reversed previous guidance that discouraged incarcerating pregnant women barring extraordinary circumstances. The number of detentions decreased from 1,380 in calendar year 2016 to 1,160 in 2017, and then increased to 2,098 in calendar year 2018. The report found over 4,600 detentions of pregnant women between 2016 and 2018 and found that detention standards addressing care varied by facility.
In the letter, the members wrote, “While the surge in firearm sales from federally licensed dealers has received nationwide attention, at least 16 companies that sell ghost gun kits have reported order backlogs and shipping delays due to overwhelming demand. The uptick in sales of ghost gun kits and parts have received substantially less notice, even though the increase in sales of ghost guns poses a direct threat to public safety and law enforcement… Because the proliferation of ghost guns is a serious problem, we write to request…information and documentation t
“There are currently nearly 2,400 children in Office of Refugee Resettlement’s (ORR) within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) custody, including licensed shelters.
House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime Chairwoman Karen Bass (D-CA) and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) have written to Barr on three prior occasions regarding coronavirus in federal prisons. To date, the Members have not received adequate responses.
Full text of the letter is available here and below.
March 30, 2020
The Honorable William P. Barr
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20530
Dear Attorney General Barr:
"This should be a wake up call. Failing to take drastic measures to combat the spread of this disease in prison will result in a magnified impact on all of society.
On March 12, 2020, Chairman Nadler originally requested information from DOJ about their handling of the health crisis. To date, he has not received a response. Given the urgency of the global health pandemic, Nadler and Bass are renewing the request. The Federal Bureau of Prisons currently imprisons 175,000 people in about 100 facilities throughout the country. The U.S.