Historic Criminal Justice Reform

Barb Wire

By Eric Metaxas

Miracle #1: Congress is on the verge of approving a major criminal justice reform bill.

Miracle #2: Republicans and Democrats are both backing it.

It’s no secret that most Americans disapprove of the way Congress is doing its job, and by “most” I mean an overwhelming majority. The reason most give is that Congress doesn’t seem to get much done. That’s why I’m delighted to tell you about a rare exception, one that would have given Chuck Colson no end of joy.

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On October 1st a bipartisan group of senators introduced what is being called “the most historic [criminal justice] reform proposal in decades.” It’s called the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act.

The sponsors include conservative Republicans like Charles Grassley and John Cornyn and liberal Democrats like Patrick Leahy and Cory Booker.

According to Craig DeRoche, the head of Prison Fellowship’s advocacy arm, Justice Fellowship, the “deal addresses a variety of criminal justice issues by combining new ideas and provisions from several previously introduced bills.” As Grassley, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told The Hill newspaper, “There are things in here that each of us likes. There are items that each of would rather do without . . . But this is how the process works here in the Congress.”

At least, that’s the way it’s supposed to work in Congress.

As DeRoche explains, the bill “requires the Bureau of Prisons to assign programs based on the risks and needs of men and women in federal prisons. In exchange for completing programs proven to reduce the likelihood of them committing another crime, lower-risk prisoners can earn time toward pre-release custody.”

This is a major step away from the “lock them up and throw away the key” approach that contributed to the explosion in prison population over the past three decades. While some of the bill’s supporters would have liked to do away with mandatory minimums altogether, Democrats and Republicans agree that the bill is a watershed moment that will positively impact tens of thousands of lives.

And the bill sends an important message: good-faith efforts to turn your life around will be reciprocated.

What’s more…

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The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barb Wire.

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