Justice Fellowship: Attorney General Should Work with Congress

"The president, his predecessor and literally millions of Americans have violated the nation’s drug and alcohol laws at some point in their lives. It is time for the country to move away from using incarceration as the default punishment for all crimes and be more prudent in the pursuit of justice," said Justice Fellowship President Craig DeRoche

Justice Fellowship President Craig DeRoche released the following statement on Attorney General Eric Holder's announcement Monday on avoiding mandatory minimum sentencing for certain drug-related offenses:

"While Attorney General Eric Holder's overdue attention to the desperate need for criminal justice reforms Monday at the American Bar Association is welcomed, we urge him not to put the proverbial cart before the horse. Unfortunately, prosecutorial power to select and choose enforcement is largely unchecked in our current criminal justice system today, and the Attorney General’s method of reform expands this power.

"This practice of being selective on which laws to prosecute should be directed by Congress and statute. Justice Fellowship reiterates our call for the Attorney General to work with Congress, which has already demonstrated leadership in embracing a ‘smart on crime’ approach, to codify sentencing reforms and return prosecutorial power to the states, where criminals can be held accountable more effectively.

"Many members in the U.S. Senate and House have been leading the way in criminal justice reform, and the Administration should look to the proposals already on the table:

  • Congressman Frank Wolf (R-Va.) has proposed the Charles Colson Task Force on Federal Corrections to analyze and make recommendations regarding the federal prison system’s overcrowding, spending, violence, and in-prison and reentry programming.

  • Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) introduced the Safety Valve Act to provide judges with greater flexibility in sentencing. Additionally, Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) recently teamed up with Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) to introduce the Smarter Sentencing Act, which would lower certain mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent drug offenses, among other sentencing reforms. 

  • Congressmen Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) and Bobby Scott (D-VA) introduced the Public Safety Enhancement Act, which aims to reduce recidivism by incentivizing inmates to participate in activities and programs that help them prepare to integrate back into society.

  • House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) has appointed a Congressional Task Force on Overcriminalization that has already held multiple hearings to review the federal duplication of existing state laws and the erosion of mens rea (criminal intent) in criminal laws.

Americans should be appalled that corrections eats up a quarter of the Justice Department's entire budget, even though our corrections policies are not making our communities safer. In 1980, the federal prison system managed 25,000 inmates. Today, it manages over 219,000 inmates. The system is dangerously overcrowded and operating at nearly 140 percent of its capacity.

"The use of incarceration for petty crimes works against fiscal responsibility, increases dependence on government entitlements, breaks apart families and prevents future self-sufficiency. Incarceration should be reserved for the people society fears are a risk to public safety, not the answer for every law that is broken. Instead, we are warehousing petty offenders and turning them into hardened criminals by the time they are released."

About Justice Fellowship
In 1983, the late Chuck Colson founded Justice Fellowship to reform the justice system according to biblical restorative justice principles so that communities are safer, victims are respected, and offenders are transformed. Colson and Justice Fellowship have played a leading role in working with members of Congress to pass groundbreaking justice reforms, including:

  • Religious Freedom Restoration Act

  • Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act

  • Prison Rape Elimination Act

  • Fair Sentencing Act

  • Second Chance Act