Scott, Paul, Leahy, Massie Re-Introduce Bipartisan, Bicameral Justice Safety Valve Act

February 7, 2019
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressmen Bobby Scott (D-VA) and Thomas Massie (R-VA) reintroduced the Justice Safety Valve Act in the U.S. House of Representatives. Senators Rand Paul (R-KY) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) introduced companion legislation in the U.S. Senate. The Justice Safety Valve Act would give federal judges the ability to impose sentences below mandatory minimums in appropriate cases based on mitigating factors.

“Last year, Congress took an important first step in recognizing that mandatory minimum sentences distort rational sentencing systems, discriminate against minorities, waste money, and often require a judge to impose sentences that violate common sense,” said Congressman Scott. “To add insult to injury, numerous studies confirm this and have also shown that mandatory minimum sentences fail to reduce crime.  Our bill will give discretion back to federal judges so that they can consider all the facts, issues, and circumstances before sentencing.”

“The First Step Act was an historic, bipartisan accomplishment that proved we can achieve real change in our criminal justice system,” said Senator Paul. “Now we have the opportunity to build on this momentum by freeing judges to ensure sentences are fair and fit the individual’s specific circumstances instead of forcing them to impose mandatory minimums that have disproportionally impacted minorities and low-income communities.”

“The Justice Safety Valve Act represents the next step in criminal justice reform,” said Senator Leahy. “For far too long, mandatory minimum sentencing has resulted in many offenders remaining in prison for far longer than public safety or justice requires, harming communities, families, and individual lives.  This bill would ensure that judges have the flexibility to sentence offenders based on their individual merits.  By giving judges appropriate discretion, it would promote justice, save taxpayer dollars, and keep our communities safe.”

Mandatory minimums force federal judges to issue indiscriminate punishments, regardless of involvement, criminal history, mental health, addiction, and other mitigating factors.

The Justice Safety Valve Act would apply the current "safety valve" provision to all federal crimes, restoring proportionality, fairness, and rationality to federal sentencing by allowing federal judges to tailor sentences on a case-by-case basis. Such judicial discretion would help reduce the bloated federal prison population and tackle dangerous overcrowding while ensuring sentences fit the circumstances of the crime.

This landmark bipartisan, bicameral legislation would also reduce correctional spending, which currently accounts for almost a third of the Department of Justice's annual budget. This would allow the Department to focus more on victim services, state and local law enforcement, staffing, investigation, and prosecution.

You can read the Justice Safety Valve Act HERE.

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