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Rep. John Lewis on Passage of First Step Act

December 20, 2018
Press Release

“For too long, our nation’s criminal justice system has broken lives and ravaged communities across America.  People of color and people without means are too often unfairly caught in a tangled web of over-policing and severe, unyielding punishment.  Our laws are meant to protect all American citizens and give those who do offend an opportunity to rehabilitate themselves and redeem their lives.  Far too often, we have fallen short of these goals.

“We have created a system that is, at times, insensitive to the truth and is so difficult to navigate that many who are innocent plead guilty just to be released from its snares.  We have a moral obligation to end this cycle of injustice and the inhumanity of mass incarceration that has destroyed millions of American families. 

“The First Step Act demonstrates some recognition of these failures and begins correcting them.  It reforms the discrepancy between the penalties in crack and powder cocaine offenses.  It gives those behind bars more credit for good behavior to hasten their release.  It relaxes some mandatory sentences and allows judges greater latitude in the sentencing of non-violent offenders.

“This good progress is the reason why I supported the amended bill on the House Floor today, but Congress needs to do much, much more to deal with the core issues of criminal justice reform.  I look forward to working with my colleagues in the 116th Congress to continue to make more progress on behalf of the millions of Americans struggling with the burdens of the criminal justice system.”

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