December 7, 2010
Floor Statements

December 7, 2010

Mr. SCOTT of Virginia: Mr. Speaker, H.R. 6412 is a short, but very important, piece of legislation. The bill will allow State sentencing commissions to obtain direct national criminal history record information maintained by the Department of Justice. These commissions, the State commissions, perform critical functions. They shape State policies that promote fairer, more consistent sentencing practices. They help protect public safety and address the impacts of crime on victims and the community. They develop tools to assess the seriousness and risk of offenders so that high-risk, dangerous offenders can be handled appropriately, and low-risk low-level offenders can be placed in appropriate evidence-based programs.

They project the impacts of State legislation, regulations, and policies on correctional populations, personnel needs, and fiscal requirements. They evaluate the effectiveness of sentencing and corrections programs, particularly in terms of outcomes, offender recidivism, and cost-benefit analysis.

Currently, State sentencing commissions are only able to receive out-of-State and Federal criminal history information through third parties, if at all. The effectiveness of the work of these commissions is consequently undermined by missing or incomplete information, particularly with respect to research relating to recidivism in jurisdictions with large populations near their State borders. Allowing State sentencing commissions to access complete and accurate criminal history information will improve the administration of justice by enhancing the effectiveness of sentencing decisions and program placements. Access to this information will also improve research concerning sentencing outcomes and recidivism.

This bill will simply put State commissions in the same position as the Federal Sentencing Commission in terms of access to this information. The United States Sentencing Commission is already afforded access to this information, subject to a transfer agreement with the Department of Justice, which protects the confidentiality of these records. I would expect the Department of Justice to treat State commissions the same way once the legislation is enacted.

I appreciate the assistance of Chairman Conyers and Ranking Member Smith for their bipartisan support of this important legislation. I urge my colleagues to support the bill.