Today’s bipartisan introduction of the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act is an important first step in the process of enacting federal criminal justice reform, according to Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF), a national civil rights legal organization that has fought for criminal justice reform for decades. Ifill cautioned that “while LDF is still studying the legislation, there appears to be more work needed in order to produce lasting, meaningful and positive change to our criminal justice system.”
Among the provisions of the bill cited by LDF as important and positive is the retroactive application of the Fair Sentencing Act which will allow 6,000 prisoners currently incarcerated under old, discredited harsh sentencing for non-violent drug offenses to petition for early release. LDF has advocated and litigated in favor of such a provision.
“Congress is right to seize this critical moment in our nation’s history to advance reforms of our broken criminal justice system,” said Leslie Proll, LDF’s Policy Director. “But there remains an urgent need to eliminate mandatory minimums for non-violent drug offenses, which have a well-documented role in contributing to mass incarceration,” said Proll. “LDF intends to continue working with Members of Congress to strengthen the current bill.”
“Implementing the necessary reforms and restoring the trust in the criminal justice system will require Congress’s sustained focus and commitment. Moreover, any federal comprehensive criminal justice reform must improve the justice system from arrest to reentry, and cascade to state and local jurisdictions. For example, the bill could be strengthened by including urgent policing reform provisions,” insisted Monique Dixon, Senior Policy Counsel at LDF, who leads the organization’s policing reform efforts.
For decades, through litigation and advocacy, LDF has sought to eliminate the pernicious influence of racial bias in a criminal justice system that is in need of total repair. This includes efforts to roll back the imposition of mandatory minimum sentences that impose unfair and wildly disproportionate results on persons of color. From 1980 until 2014, our country experienced a staggering explosion in the federal prison population of 790% – with great economic and social costs. This burgeoning population is due in large part to federal prosecutors’ and law enforcement officers’ aggressive enforcement of drug-related crimes and the disproportionate imposition of mandatory minimum sentences on persons of color.
The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) is not a part of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) although LDF was founded by the NAACP and shares its commitment to equal rights. Since 1957, LDF has been a completely separate organization. Please refer to us in all media attributions as the “NAACP Legal Defense Fund” or “LDF”.