Senate Judiciary Committee Passes Grassley-Durbin Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act

WASHINGTON—The Senate Judiciary Committee today passed the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015, which grants judges greater sentencing flexibility for certain low-level drug offenders and establishes recidivism reduction programs, while targeting violent criminals. The bill passed the committee by a vote of 15-5. The bill passed today includes minor clarifications to the original bill text.


The bill is the product of bipartisan negotiations led by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Assistant Democratic Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL). Original cosponsors include Senators John Cornyn (R-TX), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Mike Lee (R-UT), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Tim Scott (R-SC).  Other cosponsors include Thom Tillis (R-NC), Chris Coons (D-DE.), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Al Franken (D-MN) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN).


Today’s bipartisan Committee vote demonstrates the broad consensus that we can thoughtfully addresses the most serious and complex matters in prison sentencing. This bill preserves sentences necessary to keep violent offenders and career criminals out of our communities while addressing over-incarceration concerns and working to reduce recidivism. I’m grateful for the hard work and support of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, and look forward to action by the full senate to move this historic reform forward,” Grassley said.


Today, on a bipartisan basis the Judiciary Committee took a big step toward solving a massive problem. This compromise bill represents many years of work on criminal justice reform. The United States incarcerates more of its citizens than any other country on earth. Mandatory minimum sentences were once seen as a strong deterrent. In reality they have too often been unfair, fiscally irresponsible and a threat to public safety. Given tight budgets and overcrowded prison cells, our country must reform these outdated and ineffective laws that have cost American taxpayers billions of dollars. This is how the Congress is supposed to work.  I thank Chairman Grassley for his steadfast leadership, Senator Lee for his partnership on sentencing reform, and all of the bill’s other cosponsors for their hard work and dedication.  We are committed to getting this done,” Durbin said.


On Monday, the Judiciary Committee held a public hearing where a broad array of experts and advocates who weighed in on the merits of the bill.


The bill narrows the scope of mandatory minimum prison sentences to focus on the most serious drug offenders and violent criminals, while broadening and establishing new outlets for individuals with minimal non-felony criminal histories that may trigger mandatory minimum sentences under current law.  The bill also reduces certain mandatory minimums, providing judges with greater discretion when determining appropriate sentences, and preserves cooperation incentives to aid law enforcement in tracking down kingpins. 


In addition to reducing prison terms for certain offenders through sentencing reform, qualifying inmates can earn reduced sentences through recidivism reduction programs outlined in the CORRECTIONS Act introduced by Cornyn and Whitehouse. The bill also makes retroactive the Fair Sentencing Act and certain statutory reforms that address inequities in drug sentences.


For more information on the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015, see the following documents: