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Sessions & Grassley Square Off Over Sentencing & Prison Reform

by Countable | 3.28.18

What’s the story?

It’s not all partisan wrangling on Capitol Hill. Sometimes politicians within the same party have at each other. The latest fight has been between Attorney General Jeff Sessions and chair of the Judiciary Committee, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA).

Grassley is trying to get floor time for a bipartisan bill offering a sweeping overhaul of sentencing and federal prisons. Sessions has panned the bill, Officially, he is backing a much narrower prison reform effort from the administration formulated by White House Senior Advisor Jared Kushner, though he has done nothing to promote it.

Grassley's Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2017, explains the New York Times, would "change mandatory-minimum sentences and ease drug laws that have been used to seek lengthy sentences for nonviolent offenders. The bill also includes provisions to expand education, worker training and drug rehabilitation programs in [federal] prison."

It has 25 co-sponsors, split evenly between both parties. Grassley said about the measure to Politico, "This bill strikes the right balance of improving public safety and ensuring fairness in the criminal justice system. It is the product of much thoughtful deliberation, and we will continue to welcome input from stakeholders as we move forward."

Sessions wrote a letter to Congress condemning the bill. He insists that the legislation "risks putting the very worst criminals back into our communities."

Instead, the administration is backing a set of principles distributed to Congress focused solely on prison reform — reducing recidivism through education and work training programs, arguing that a more narrow set of reforms is more likely to pass Congress.

Some of the programs they are now touting were defunded or scrapped in the early days of the administration.

Grassley, reports Politico, has worked for years to formulate the more expansive reform legislation. He even managed to get it passed out of the Judiciary Committee despite Sessions’ opposition. Sessions, Grassley argues, is overstepping his role and intruding on the legislative process:

"It’s Senator Sessions talking, not a person whose job it is to execute law, and quite frankly I’m very incensed…If he wanted to do this he should have done what people suggested to him before: resign from attorney general and run for the Senate in Alabama again. We’d have a Republican senator."

Grassley is referring to the Senate seat vacated by Sessions, which was subsequently lost to Republicans when Democrat Doug Jones beat Roy Moore.

What do you think?

Do you support a wider reform of sentencing, drug laws, and prison programs, or do you think a more narrow prison reform effort is the right step at this time?

Tell us in the comments what you think, then use the Take Action button to tell your reps!

— Asha Sanaker

(Photo Credit: Politico via Twitter)

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