I have great news to share with you. Today, U.S. Representatives Bobby Scott (D-VA) and Thomas Massie (R-KY) introduced the Justice Safety Valve Act of 2013, H.R. 1695, in the U.S. House of Representatives. In March, U.S. Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Rand Paul (R-KY) introduced an identical version of the Justice Safety Valve Act, S. 619, in the U.S. Senate.
This is so exciting because now, for the first time since the crack cocaine reforms of 2010, there is a sentencing reform bill with bipartisan support in both houses of Congress!
What’s the big deal about a bill that doesn’t reduce sentences for people already behind bars, you may ask.
It’s a big deal because it will end the injustice of 30 years of federal mandatory minimum sentencing laws. I received 19 years and 7 months in federal prison for my involvement in a nonviolent methamphetamine offense. Four months after I was sentenced, Congress, at FAMM’s urging, created the safety valve for federal drug offenders. I fit the drug safety valve’s criteria, but it was not made retroactive, so it didn’t help me — I was sentenced four months too early for a reform that, since its passage, has helped 80,000 others. I served every day of my sentence.
The new House bill and its companion in the Senate are not retroactive, either. They won’t help any of the amazing women I left behind when I left prison. But they will help people just like me who haven’t been sentenced yet.
Here’s why I’m supporting the Justice Safety Valve Act, and why you should, too:
… because no one else should have to get a one-size-fits-all sentence like the one I got.
… because future generations of parents shouldn’t spend a single day longer than necessary away from their children, as I did.
… because judges like mine shouldn’t have their hands tied by a policy that doesn’t work.
… because injustice must end here.
I know that I didn’t need to serve 19 years in prison to get sober, get educated, and get to the point where I knew I would never commit another crime. And I know that, without the Justice Safety Valve Act, thousands of other parents like me will spend decades away from their kids, at huge costs to taxpayers, with little or no benefit to the public.
The Justice Safety Valve Act would create a brand-new, broad “safety valve” that would apply to all federal crimes carrying mandatory minimum sentences. If it becomes law, it would allow judges to sentence people below the mandatory minimum sentence whenever that minimum term does not fulfill the goals of punishment. In a nutshell,the bill would give judges flexibility to end the injustices produced by mandatory minimum sentences!
But injustice won’t end without your help. Click here to write to your members of Congress today and tell them to support H.R. 1695, the Justice Safety Valve Act of 2013!
I’m so grateful for the strong leadership of Representatives Scott and Massie and Senators Leahy and Paul, who understand that future generations are counting on us to reform mandatory sentencing laws today.
Many of you know all too well what it means to lose a loved one to a mandatory minimum sentence. Let’s work together to ensure that no one else suffers what we have suffered.
Let’s end the injustice here and now!