Congress has two current avenues to enact bipartisan “smart-on-crime” reforms.
First, lawmakers can update the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act. Last reauthorized in 2002, the act supports a state- and community-based approach, with emphasis on prevention and early intervention. Reauthorizing legislation should require states to end jailing of youths for non-criminal status offenses, implement steps to reduce racial disparities in the juvenile justice system and strengthen access to counsel. Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) proposed reauthorizing legislation last year and have indicated their intention to reintroduce the bill soon.
Second, Congress can enact reforms that reduce reliance on incarceration and promote public safety. Bills such as the bipartisan Smarter Sentencing Act of 2015 would reform mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders and incrementally expand ways for judges to sentence below mandatory minimums. There are ongoing bipartisan discussions toward a criminal justice bill that would include parts of the Smarter Sentencing Act. We believe that serious sentencing reforms are necessary to any significant reform bill.