In 1983 the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), representing a broad range of evangelical denominations, churches, organizations and networks, lamented that “America’s prisons now have far more inmates than they were designed to hold.”1 We called for alternative sentences for nonviolent offenders and endorsed legislation that would focus on victim restitution and offender rehabilitation.
Sadly, it has taken more than 30 years to build bipartisan support for sensible sentencing reform. For most of that time the number of citizens incarcerated in both state and federal prisons continued to rise, fueled in large part by harsh mandatory minimum sentences that left no room for judges to apply the law intelligently based on the unique facts of each case. Millions of Americans — both victims and offenders — have suffered under this dysfunctional system.
Thankfully, a new day is dawning, driven in part by the economic realities that we can no longer afford the costs of indiscriminate mass incarceration, but also by a growing realization that past policies have not served the cause of justice.
The Smarter Sentencing Act (S. 1410), sponsored by Senators Mike Lee (R-UT) and Richard Durbin (D-IL) is an important step in the reform of our broken criminal justice system. It would reduce harsh mandatory minimum sentences for low level drug offenders and allow for judicial review of those who could benefit from reduced sentences under the guidelines of the Fair Sentencing Act, which the NAE also supported.
Please join your many colleagues in both parties who have co-sponsored the Smarter Sentencing Act. As S. 1410 is debated on the floor, please also oppose amendments to the bill that were added in committee creating new mandatory sentences for other offenses. These amendments work against the spirit and purpose of the legislation.
Vice President, Government Relations