Durbin Statement On President Biden's Clemency Grants, Plan To Increase Opportunity For Formerly Incarcerated Persons

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee and lead sponsor of the landmark First Step Act, today released the following statement after President Biden announced a plan to expand opportunities for formerly incarcerated persons:


“It is common sense that once incarcerated Americans complete their sentences and return to society, they should have a fair chance to fully participate in society.  Policy actions like these are critical to making our system of justice fairer and undoing the decades of harm that the failed ‘war on drugs’ caused—particularly in communities of color.  I commend President Biden for a plan that upholds the values of dignity, fairness, and belief in second chances.”


Additionally, President Biden announced that he is pardoning three people who have demonstrated their commitment to rehabilitation, and commuting the sentences of 75 people who are serving long sentences for non-violent drug offenses, many of whom have been on home confinement during the COVID-19 pandemic—and many of whom would have received a lower sentence if they were charged with the same offense today, thanks to the bipartisan First Step Act, which Durbin co-authored.


“In far too many cases in our justice system, the punishment does not fit the crime.  This led to an explosion of the U.S. prison population due to lengthy sentences that are oftentimes unfair, fiscally irresponsible, and even a threat to public safety.  But today, more than 70 Americans are getting a second chance.  As we move forward with criminal justice reform in Congress, I urge the President to continue using the clemency process to improve the fairness of our criminal justice system.”


Durbin has long championed efforts to address inequities in the criminal justice system and mandatory minimum sentencing.  In 2010, President Obama signed into law Durbin’s Fair Sentencing Act.  The bipartisan bill to curtail the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine marked the first time Congress has repealed a mandatory minimum since the Nixon administration.


Durbin has since sponsored both the Smarter Sentencing Act and the Eliminating A Quantifiably Unjust Application Of The Law (EQUAL) Act.  In 2018, President Trump signed into law Durbin’s First Step Act (FSA), landmark prison and sentencing reform legislation that included key sentencing reforms from Durbin’s Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act.  As Chair of the Judiciary Committee, Durbin and Ranking Member Chuck Grassley (R-IA) introduced the bipartisan First Step Implementation Act, the COVID-19 Safer Detention Act, and the Prohibiting Punishment of Acquitted Conduct Act of 2021, legislation that aims to build on the FSA and continue Congress’s bipartisan efforts to make our criminal justice system fairer.