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How to reform the criminal justice system

GEORGE E. CURRY | 7/27/2015, 5:15 a.m.
There is no question that the criminal justice system is broken. President Obama made that clear recently in his address ...
George Curry

“In its 2011 report to Congress, the U.S. Sentencing Commission found that mandatory minimum sentences disproportionately impact communities of color and that African Americans received relief from mandatory minimum sentences least often, compared with Whites and Hispanics,” the letter noted.

The organizations urged Congress to support reform that:

• Changes current federal law that allows a person with two prior felony convictions to have a 10-year mandatory minimum sentence converted to a mandatory life sentence.

• Allows past criminal records to be sealed and removes the lifetime ban on persons convicted of drug felonies to receive federal benefits such as welfare and food stamps.

• Makes sentencing reductions passed in 2010 retroactive.

• Expands the Bureau of Prisons’ Compassionate Release Program.

• Expands time credited for good behavior.

“We note the importance of supporting initiatives that aim to assist in effective recidivism reduction and re-entry programming as well as provide opportunities for early release for individuals in federal prison,” the groups said. “Ninety-five percent of incarcerated individuals will return to our communities, and in the interest of public safety, we must ensure that they are on a path for successful reintegration back into society while in prison and upon their release. It is a smart investment to implement expanded re-entry programming, given that evidence-based programs, job-training, and education can reduce recidivism and lead to better outcomes for individuals returning to their families and neighborhoods.”

George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine, is editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service and BlackPressUSA.com.