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May 13, 2021

Sentencing, Corrections, and Re-Entry Reforms

The ABA supports sentences that are fair, consistent among persons convicted of the same offense, and adequately tailored to the facts of the case. To that end, the ABA opposes the use of mandatory minimum sentencing that denies judges the discretion to ensure that a particular sentence fits the crime without producing unjust results.

For those incarcerated, the ABA supports appropriate treatment consistent with the 8th Amendment that offers resources and opportunities that have been shown to reduce recidivism, increase public safety, and help that person be a productive member of the community. Similarly, upon release from incarceration, the ABA supports adequate resources for programs that help individuals make successful transitions back into society.

Federal Legislation

Bills and regulations being supported or monitored by the ABA in the 118th Congress include the following:

  • H.R. 56, RAISE Act; Rep. Jackson Lee (D TX), would provide alternatives to incarceration for juveniles 
  • H.R. 444, End For-Profit Prisons Act; Rep. Watson Coleman (D NJ), would end federal authorization for private prisons
  • H.R. 2954, Women in Criminal Justice Reform Act; Rep. Kamlager-Dove (D CA), would comprehensively address gender informed/specific conditions in prisons          
  • S. 1056, Smarter Pretrial Detention for Drug Charges Act; Sen. Durbin (D IL), would remove a statutory presumption for pre-trial detention for certain drug offenses 
  • S. 1247, Terry Technical Amendments Act; Sen. Durbin (D IL), would ensuring that Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 improvements to sentences for crack-related offenses are applied retroactively even though the amount involved did not trigger a mandatory minimum sentence.
  • S. 1248, Safer Detention Act; Sen. Durbin (D IL), would make improvements to and expand eligibility for compassionate release for elderly in prison
  • S. 1251, First Step Implementation Act; Sen. Durbin, would make several reforms including but not limited to authorizing a “second look” at sentences for those sentenced under age 18 once they had served at least 20 years, as well as automatic sealing and expungement of certain juvenile records. 
  • H.R. 2400/S. 1165, the Reentry Act; Rep. Tonko (D CA)/Sen. Baldwin (D WI), would allow states to approve Medicaid eligibility 30 days out from a person’s release date.
  • H.R. 3074/S. 971, the Due Process Continuity of Care Act; Rep. Trone (D MD)/Sen. Cassidy (R LA) – would allow states to approve Medicaid eligibility for persons held in pretrial detention   
  • S.1401, Federal Prison Oversight Act (most of); Sen. Ossoff (D GA), would create an inspection regime; office of ombuds; and access to counsel for federal prisons, among other things.

ABA Advocacy

ABA Letter to the House Judiciary Committee Supporting H.R. 6414, the Correctional Facility Emergency Response Act of 2020

On Tuesday, April 7, 2020, ABA President Judy Perry Martinez sent a letter to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Nadler thanking him for the introduction of H.R. 6414, the COVID-19 Correctional Facility Emergency Response Act of 2020. The bill, if enacted, would reduce prison overcrowding and increase public safety by establishing the Pandemic Jail and Prison Emergency Response grant program. The program would offer funding to states to promote the use of risk-based citation and release for persons accused of crimes and urge the early release of prisoners who present no risk to public safety who are at significant risk of experiencing severe cases of COVID-19. Read more...

ABA Support for H.R. 2868, the Ensuring Quality Access to Legal (EQUAL) Defense Act

On February 27, ABA President Judy Perry Martinez commended Senator Kamala Harris and Representative Ted Deutch for their introduction of the Ensuring Quality Access to Legal (EQUAL) Defense Act in each chamber of Congress (S.1377 and H.R. 2868, respectively). The EQUAL Defense Act would help protect the constitutional rights of defendants who are unable to afford a lawyer, increase indigent defense representation in local and tribal public defense systems, and provide needed relief to the men and women providing public defense services every day. Citing to the ABA Ten Principles of a Public Defense Delivery System, President Martinez emphasized that for the criminal justice system to be fair, public defense lawyers should be resourced on a par with prosecution counterparts. Read more...

ABA Letter of Support for the Effective Assistance of Counsel in the Digital Era Act

One January 7, 2020, the ABA sent a letter to the House applauding Representatives Jeffries and Collins for their support for Effective Assistance of Counsel in the Digital Era. The attorney-client privilege is fundamental to our system of justice and critical to the work of lawyers who rely on confidential communications with their clients to represent their clients’ interests in legal proceedings and to insure fairness in the federal criminal justice system. Read more...

ABA Letter Supporting a Technical Corrections Bill for the Elderly Offender Home Detention Pilot Program

On October 8, 2019, ABA President Judy Perry Martinez wrote to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, urging their support for H.R. 4018—a bipartisan technical corrections bill concerning the Elderly Offender Home Detention Pilot Program. The pilot program had been reauthorized under the First Step Act (P.L. 115-391), offering to model nonviolent elderly and terminally ill inmates an opportunity to serve the remainder of their sentence on home detention. If enacted, H.R. 4018 would ensure that when calculating whether a person has served a sufficient portion of their sentence to become eligible for the pilot program that the Bureau reduces the length of the original sentence imposed by the “good time” credits the person had been awarded while behind bars. Read more...

ABA Letter on PATTERN Risk and Needs Assessment Tool

On August 26, 2019, ABA President Judy Perry Martinez wrote to the Department of Justice in response to its release of a new risk and needs assessment tool for prisoners “PATTERN” as required under the First Step Act. President Martinez applauded some aspect of the tool but raised numerous questions and flagged potential problems requiring clarification or correction. Read more...

ABA Letter in Support of the Restoring Education and Learning ("REAL") Act

On April 1, 2019 ABA President Robert M. Carlson sent a letter to Senator Brian Schatz expressing the ABA's appreciation for his leadership in introducing the Restoring Education and Learning (“REAL”) Act. The bill would restore Pell Grant eligibility for those seeking to improve their lives through education while in prison, a move the ABA believes will decrease recidivism and increase ex-offender employability. Read more...