WASHINGTON -- Criminal justice reform seems to be the bipartisan issue of the day. Across the political spectrum, from the Koch brothers to President Barack Obama, people believe something needs to be done. But is there really a chance that Congress -- yes, that Congress -- could pass significant legislation in the lead-up to the 2016 presidential election?
That is the question that hung over the Bipartisan Summit on Fair Justice in Washington this week. The event was organized by the Coalition for Public Safety and the #cut50 initiative, which was co-founded by activist Van Jones and seeks to reduce the prison population by half over the next decade.
The event took place a week after Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said the SAFE Justice Actwill get a vote on the floor of the House. The legislation, introduced last month by Reps. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) and Bobby Scott (D-Va.), suggests a number of reforms, including changes that would result in fewer people facing mandatory minimum sentences and would allow judges to have discretion in cases where defendants have limited criminal histories. Boehner said there are many people in prison who "really don't need to be there" and are in prison for what he called "flimsy reasons."\