FWD.us Statement on Passage of Oklahoma Justice Reform Bills

Posted by FWD.us Press on 04/24/2018

WASHINGTON, DC – FWD.us Senior Director of Criminal Justice Reform Zoë Towns issued the following statement today upon the passage of key justice reform bills in Oklahoma:

“We applaud Oklahoma Senate President Mike Schulz (R), House Speaker Charles McCall (R), Representative Terry O’Donnell (R), Senator Greg Treat (R), Senator Wayne Shaw (R), Representative Chris Kannady (R), and Representative Ben Loring (D) for their leadership in passing a package of criminal justice reforms that will slow Oklahoma’s skyrocketing prison growth and ensure more effective use of state resources.

“These reforms, based on recommendations from the Oklahoma Justice Reform Task Force, will reduce the state’s projected prison population by 4,851 over the next 10 years. This is a critical step forward for Oklahoma that will help keep more of Oklahoma’s families together and build safer communities.

“The bills passed today are:

  • SB 649 removes certain property offenses from the habitual offender enhancement so that people charged with those crimes will no longer be subject to mandatory minimum or life sentences. It also makes it so that prior convictions for possession of a controlled substance can no longer be used to enhance new sentences.
  • SB 689 caps the length of incarceration for technical violations of probation at six months and makes it so people can no longer be incarcerated for failure to pay fines and fees. It also allows people serving life without parole sentences for nonviolent crimes to petition for sentence modification.
  • SB 786 carves out breaking into a vehicle from burglary of a home or business and provides a lesser sentence for the less serious conduct.
  • SB 793 reduces the penalties for commercial drug offenses. For example, people convicted of low-level sale or possession with intent to distribute for the first time will now be subject to a 0-7 year sentence instead of 2-life.
  • SB 650 expands opportunities for those convicted of nonviolent offenses by bringing record expungement requirements more in line with those of other states.
  • HB 2286 streamlines the parole process for people convicted of nonviolent offenses who comply with their case plans while in prison and makes them eligible for parole at 25% instead of 33%. This administrative parole process will be available to people currently in prison who are parole eligible.
  • HB 2281 creates a tiered penalty structure for felony property offenses by value, establishing more severe penalties for higher-value property offenses and brings down the maximum sentence for first time, low-level theft offenses to three years.

“By passing the Justice Reform Task Force bills, Oklahoma has shown a commitment to a smarter, fairer, and more fiscally responsible justice system.

“However, even with the passage of these reforms, Oklahoma is still poised to overtake Louisiana as the state with the highest incarceration rate in the nation. We strongly urge Governor Fallin to sign these bills into law as a critical first step, and implore Oklahoma lawmakers to continue pushing for additional reforms.”

ICYMI - Lawmakers Announce Bipartisan Support for “Queen of the Hill” Rule to Force Debate and a Vote on Dreamer Legislation

Posted by FWD.us Press on 04/18/2018

Representatives Jeff Denham (R-CA) and Pete Aguilar (D-CA), joined by Representatives Will Hurd (R-TX), Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-NM), Michael Coffman (R-CO) and David Valadao (R-CA), today announced that their “Queen of the Hill” Rule has broad bipartisan support from roughly 230 Representatives, easily surpassing the 218 votes needed to pass the measure through the House.

The Rule — H.Res. 774 — would allow a fair chance for the House to consider four separate immigration bills, including the Dream Act, the bipartisan USA Act (which pairs an earned pathway to legal status for Dreamers with improved border security), Rep. Goodlatte’s Securing America’s Future Act, and a fourth bill offered by Speaker Ryan. The bill that receives the most votes in the House would be adopted and move to the Senate for a vote.

The House has not allowed a single vote on legislation to protect Dreamers since President Trump terminated the DACA program seven months ago, jeopardizing the futures of nearly 800,000 young Americans and creating an urgent crisis for millions of their family, friends and colleagues. Without a legislative solution, hundreds of thousands of young people who know no other home could be deported to countries they barely remember and costing the American economy hundreds of billions of dollars over a decade.

Statements from FWD.us and other organizations on H.Res. 774 are below:

Statement from Todd Schulte, President of FWD.us: “It’s been more than 7 months since DACA was repealed and it is ridiculous that the House hasn’t allowed a single vote to protect Dreamers. That is why we are supporting this resolution that simply says let’s take a single day – even just an hour – and vote on a series of bills that deal with Dreamers. Some are good and some are bad, but Congress should do its job and actually VOTE. We are particularly grateful for Congressman Denham’s and Congressman Aguilar’s continued commitment to protecting millions of promising young people who, in the face of congressional inaction, risk deportation to countries they barely remember.”

Statement from Neil Bradley, Executive Vice President and Chief Policy Officer of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce: “The Chamber supports the efforts of Representatives Denham, Hurd, Aguilar, Lujan Grisham, and many others to initiate a long-overdue immigration debate in the House of Representatives. We hope their work on House Resolution 774 leads to a serious debate on bipartisan legislation that addresses the plight of Dreamers and implements much needed improvements to our nation’s border security efforts.”

Statement from Ali Noorani, Executive Director of the National Immigration Forum: “Republican voters want a solution for Dreamers and our border that bolsters the rule of law. Congressman Denham’s ‘Queen of the Hill’ proposal offers an excellent opportunity for Congress to debate and vote on such a solution. An already hobbled DACA program, caught between the administration and the courts, is not the solution Americans want or need. Speaker Ryan should allow Congress to engage in debate, then vote.”

Statement from the Coalition for the American Dream: “The Coalition for the American Dream, an organization of business leaders representing every major sector of the US economy, endorses the House resolution introduced by Rep. Denham (H. Res. 774), which would require the House to vote on several immigration proposals related to DACA. It is vital that Congress act now to provide legal certainty for Dreamers and businesses, avoid a loss of valuable talent and significant disruptions in the American workforce, and ensure that these deserving young people can continue contributing to their communities and our economy. President Trump has called for Congress to act on DACA, and a debate in the House on this important issue is long overdue. We applaud Rep. Denham for his work, and urge members to support his resolution.”

Statement from Jeremy Robbins, Executive Director of New American Economy: “The American people want their leaders to lead on immigration reform. A deal to secure the border and protect Dreamers makes sense to both sides of the aisle, and we applaud Rep. Denham for taking the initiative and creating a path through the gridlock.”

Roughly 185 advocacy organizations, including United We Dream, the NAACP and Teach For America, signed a joint statement that said, in part: “We applaud the bipartisan effort led by Rep. Aguilar and Rep. Denham on the ‘Queen of the Hill’ resolution to fix the crisis President Trump created and to respect the will of the American people. Our country cannot wait while our family members, our neighbors, our students, our teachers, and our first responders who are American in all but paper live in fear of deportation. Immigrant youth in our communities should be able to fully contribute to the only country they’ve ever called home. Speaker Ryan, bring up the Dream Act for a vote now and respect the will of the People’s House.”

FWD.us Statement on New York Governor Cuomo’s Executive Order to Restore Voting Rights to People on Parole

Posted by FWD.us Press on 04/18/2018

WASHINGTON, DC – FWD.us President Todd Schulte issued the following statement today on New York Governor Cuomo’s decision to restore voting rights to New Yorkers on parole:

“We applaud Governor Cuomo on his decision today to restore the voting rights of the tens of thousands of New Yorkers on parole. This is a critical step in rolling back the many legal barriers that make it nearly impossible for people returning from prison to engage meaningfully in their communities and rebuild their lives.

“Even as we celebrate this decision, we encourage Governor Cuomo to keep fighting for long overdue reforms to the front-end of the justice system by dramatically scaling back pretrial detention and the use of money bail. Every day, 16,000 people who have not been convicted of a crime are locked in New York jails awaiting trial, many simply because they cant afford to pay bail. With less than 30 legislative days remaining in the 2018 session and overwhelming voter support for bold pretrial reforms, Albany can’t leave New Yorkers waiting any longer.”

ICYMI: Daily Journal publishes Editorial on need for continued efforts on criminal justice reform

Posted by FWD.us Press on 04/18/2018

Wanted to make sure you saw the editorial in the Daily Journal entitled “Recidivism deserves continued attention.

Over the past few weeks, Governor Phil Bryant took positive action to reform Mississippi’s criminal justice system by signing into law House Bill 387, which aims to reduce recidivism by prohibiting the use of jail for nonpayment of fees and fines, among other reforms.

While HB 387 is a critically important set up of reforms, much more work remains to safely drive down the state’s incarceration rate. Unfortunately, on Friday, April 13, Governor Bryant vetoed Senate Bill 2841, which would have provided a long overdue correction to Mississippi’s broken reentry system. This bill was voted unanimously out of the Legislature, and received overwhelming support from across the political and ideological spectrum.

In the wake of this veto, and in order to build upon the great work that has been done, Mississippi’s politicians must continue to work together to pass meaningful reforms to improve the state’s criminal justice system.


Daily Journal // OUR OPINION: Recidivism deserves continued attention

OUR OPINION: Recidivism deserves continued attention

Mississippi took a step in the right direction last week when legislation seeking to combat recidivism by eliminating what’s commonly referred to as a debtors’ prison was signed into law.

That legislation is part of bipartisan efforts to make changes to Mississippi’s criminal justice system with the goal of reducing the levels of incarceration – particularly for non-violent offenders – throughout the state, as reported by the Daily Journal’s Bobby Harrison.

Last week, Gov. Phil Bryant hosted a ceremonial bill signing for House Bill 387, which aims to reduce recidivism by preventing people from being incarcerated because of their inability to pay fees and fines if they are found to be indigent, allows people to check in with probation officers and other court personnel via such computer technology as Skype so that they do not miss work and establishes a task force to study the issue of sentencing disparities.

The proposal signifies broad efforts to reduce the state’s incarcerated population and is followup legislation to the major sentencing reforms made in 2014 legislation. That legislation, among other things, gives judges more discretion in handing down sentences – especially as it related to non-violent offenders.

Another bill that included some other valuable benefits, however, was vetoed due to one major item.

Bryant announced Monday that he had vetoed Senate Bill 2841 stating it would cause a financial hardship to the Mississippi Department of Corrections.

The bill would have erased the discretion of department employees or judges to grant hardship waivers for offenders who say they’re too poor to pay $55-a-month fees while on probation, parole or other supervision, as reported by the Associated Press.

The bill would have made waivers automatic for those fitting the federal definition of poverty. The AP reported Bryant said the current process has worked, and granting more waivers could cost the Department of Corrections millions of dollars.

Bryant acknowledged his regrets that his veto was killing other parts of the bill, including expansion of treatment options for people supervised by drug courts and suspension of driver’s licenses for drug convictions unrelated to driving.
Various groups as diverse as the American Civil Liberties Union and the conservative Americans for Prosperity have gotten behind the efforts to prevent poor people from being incarcerated or facing other penalties for their inability to pay fines and fees.

We urge legislators to continue examining and discussing these important issues, especially seeking to revive the items that were eliminated in the veto of the second piece of legislation.

Measures like these can go a long way in helping curb or reduce recidivism altogether, a goal all Mississippians should share.