WASHINGTON, D.C. – More than 100 celebrities, faith and business leaders, lawmakers, athletes and civil rights advocates signed a letter to President Barack Obama asking him to improve national criminal justice policies by focusing more on intervention and rehabilitation. The coalition, brought together by hip-hop pioneer Russell Simmons and Dr. Boyce Watkins, offers the president support in implementing innovative criminal justice reform and more alternatives to incarceration.
FAMM president, Julie Stewart, is among those who signed the letter to President Obama. “Five years ago, candidate Obama said there are too many low-level, nonviolent offenders in prison.” said Stewart, “Unfortunately, little has been done to change that situation. This broad coalition of individuals – most of whom are supporters of the President – is asking him to take action on changing sentencing, commutation and prison policies to significantly impact over-incarceration in America, while protecting public safety.”
The letter calls on President Obama to support the Justice Safety Valve Act of 2013 (S. 619), a bipartisan federal bill that would save millions of taxpayer dollars by reserving scarce federal prison beds for the most dangerous offenders. The bill creates a “safety valve” that allows federal courts to impose sentences below the mandatory minimum sentence under specific conditions. The legislation was introduced on March 20 by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), and referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee for consideration. Click here for more information on The Justice Safety Valve Act.
The coalition’s letter also:
- Suggests reforming the federal commutations and pardons process, which has been the subject of widespread criticism for mismanagement of cases;
- Recommends that President Obama extend the benefits of the Fair Sentencing Act to all federal prisoners serving crack cocaine sentences;
- Requests President Obama to support alternatives to incarceration, juvenile justice programs, and support for the families of prisoners.
FAMM (Families Against Mandatory Minimums) is a national, nonprofit organization working for individualized sentencing laws that protect public safety. Visit famm.org for more information.