Post Date: December 23, 2016
The 114th Congress has ended, and members of both houses of Congress have gone home for the holidays. This means there will be no bills passed or votes taken in Congress until they come back to work on January 3, 2017. That will be the start of the 115th Congress.
Sadly, no sentencing or prison reform bills were passed into law by Congress this year. This means that all these bills are dead, and we have to start over again from scratch next year. We were disappointed that reforms did not pass, and we’re grateful for every member of Congress who fought so hard for these reforms.
What we were NOT disappointed in was the tremendous progress sentencing reform made. This Congress, we saw more sentencing and prison reform bills introduced than ever before. We saw more members of Congress from both parties support these bills, too. Here are just a few examples:
More than that, we also saw unprecedented support for sentencing reform from all parts of the political spectrum and from police, prosecutors, faith groups, and key congressional leaders like Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI). And, of course, thousands of you wrote to and met with your members of Congress and told them to support reform, and that made a huge difference, too! Thank you for all of your advocacy this year!
Looking Ahead to the 115th Congress
On January 3, 2017, the 115th Congress will start working and will run until December 2018. Both Houses of Congress will be controlled by Republicans. We will be starting over fresh – bills will have to be reintroduced and go through all the normal steps before they can become law: they must be approved by the Judiciary Committee, passed by the full U.S. House and U.S. Senate, and signed by the president.
Many members of both parties in Congress still want to pass sentencing and prison reform bills, and we commend them for it. We’re going to keep working with them, help them introduce bills, and try to pass one. Also, next year we will be educating Congress about how it can make federal prisons better with more programs, jobs, drug treatment, and education — and give prisoners meaningful incentives to complete those programs so that they don’t reoffend. Finally, Congress may try to pass some bills that create new mandatory minimum sentences next year. We’re going to work hard to make sure those bills don’t pass and taxpayers don’t waste money on policies that won’t make them safer.
Republican Donald Trump will be sworn in as the 45th president on January 20, 2017. President-elect Trump has chosen Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) to be his attorney general. Senator Sessions has a mixed record on sentencing reform. He supported the 2010 Fair Sentencing Act, which reduced the weight disparity between crack and powder cocaine mandatory minimum sentences. Unfortunately, he opposed making those reforms retroactive and has since opposed other efforts to reform sentences. FAMM does not take positions on presidential nominees, and we don’t know yet what Senator Sessions might do as attorney general. But we have already offered FAMM’s help to President-elect Trump’s team to help them understand why we need sentencing and prison reforms. We look forward to working with the new president and attorney general and the 115th Congress to see if we can find common ground and advance reforms.
Thank you for supporting FAMM’s work and helping us advocate for common sense sentencing reforms. We’ll need your help again with the 115th Congress. Keep checking our website for updates as new bills are introduced next year, and happy holidays!