The JCPA Praises Bipartisan Effort to Reduce Mandatory Sentencing for Nonviolent Offenders and Expand Early Release Programs

by Jared Feldman

Federal legislation offered by bipartisan group is a positive step forward

 Washington, D.C. – The Jewish Council for Public Affairs (the JCPA) praises the work of a bipartisan group of United States senators who, on Thursday, October 1, introduced a plan to cut mandatory prison sentences for nonviolent offenders and expand early release programs. In response to the proposal the JCPA issued the following statement:

The bipartisan legislation being proposed is a positive first step toward needed criminal justice reforms, and should set the stage for further reform in the states. “Punishments for offenders should fit the crimes, but mandatory minimum sentences have often violated this principle, particularly with nonviolent offenders,” said Susan W. Turnbull, chair of the JCPA. For example, long sentences and mandatory incarceration for minor drug offenses have not significantly deterred drug use or reduced addiction rates. Instead, “mass arrests and incarceration have removed large numbers of people from productive engagement in their communities,” noted Hanna Dershowitz, the JCPA Director of Legal Affairs. “The JCPA welcomes a host of reforms that reduce criminalization and incarceration, improve conditions in prisons (such as curbing the use of solitary confinement), foster reentry for formerly incarcerated persons, restore privileges to those returning citizens, and otherwise shift from mass incarceration to mass investment in healthy and safe communities.”

With respect to drug use, criminalization degrades the conditions that can aid in recovery for people who have substance use disorders—such as access to treatment and support networks, gainful employment, and education. Mass incarceration is a significant contributing factor to poverty, income inequality, and family instability. As we rein in incarceration and its costs, the JCPA hopes the government will make investments to strengthen community health and prevent crime.

 “The JCPA believes that the decline in civility in our community and broader society is a matter of urgent priority, and has hampered our ability to solve critical problems such as mass incarceration. On the issue of criminal justice reform, and in this legislation specifically, we see a promising trend toward bipartisanship and finding common ground. We hope the trend continues and flourishes,” said Dershowitz. 

Accordingly, the JCPA praises this initial federal legislative effort and expresses hope that it will inspire additional reforms in states that are still imposing mandatory minimums for nonviolent offenses or otherwise imposing outsize criminal sanctions on nonviolent behavior.

The JCPA, the public affairs arm of the organized Jewish community, serves as the national coordinating and advisory body for the 16 national and 125 local agencies comprising the field of Jewish community relations.


About the Author


Jared Feldman