Thursday, October 22, 2015
Senate Bill to Cut Incarceration and Reform Prisons Advances
Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved an historic bill that represents an enormous step forward towards improving our criminal justice system. This bill is particularly important to NCTE because LGBT and especially trans youth and adults are more likely to be incarcerated and to be abused behind bars.
The Sentencing and Corrections Reform Act, which will now move forward to a Senate vote, would reduce mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent drug offenses and give judges more discretion in sentencing in these and many other federal cases. Current laws have forced many judges to hand out sentences that are far too harsh for the crime. It has also put too many people behind bars, a crisis that has especially affected people of color and trans people. 1 in 8 trans people are incarcerated or say they have been in the past, according to 2011 report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey. That number jumps dramatically among trans people of color: 1 in 4 trans Latinas and 1 out of every 2 black trans people have been incarcerated.
The bill would also make key reforms to juvenile justice, including banning juvenile solitary confinement. This is incredibly important because while an estimated 6% of youth are LGBT, 15% of those in the juvenile justice system are LGBT. While relatively few minors are in the federal system, the bill could influence similar reforms in states.
The bill also strengthens federal re-entry programs, which could make it easier for people to reintegrate into society and find jobs and housing after they are released from prison, and makes it easier for federal prisoners to earn "good time" credits toward early release, or to get compassionate release if they are elderly or severely ill. A similar bill has been introduced in the House and is expected to move forward soon.
NCTE is proud to support these urgently needed reforms. We urge the House and Senate to continue to work to push the broadest, fairest reforms possible.