Category Archives: Domestic Peacemaking

NETWORK Responds to Week of Violence, Bigotry, and Anguish

NETWORK Responds to Week of Violence, Bigotry, and Anguish

NETWORK Staff
October 29, 2018

After a would-be assassin mailed pipe bombs to 14 prominent Democratic figures, including the families of 2 former Presidents; after a gunman tried to enter a Black Church in Kentucky intent on doing harm but was unable to gain access so walked to the nearest Kroger grocery store and killed two people instead; after all of that, there was the terrible mass shooting of Jewish worshippers at a Pennsylvania synagogue.  It was a devastating week and we are still reeling from it.

Nevertheless, we join the country in offering our most heartfelt and sincere condolences to the family and friends of those 11 people who were killed in Pennsylvania and the 2 people in Kentucky.  No words can express how profoundly we grieve with you in your time of need.  We stand together as the nation mourns your, and our, loss.

At the same time, we condemn, in the strongest possible language, these senseless murders of 13 ordinary people, worshipping at Tree of Life Synagogue and buying groceries at the local Kroger store.  They were simply going about their day until two white men, fueled by anti-Semitism and racial animus, attacked them.  These innocent people lost their lives to hate and fear in a country founded on freedom, opportunity and religious values.

But our Catholic faith tells us that we are all created in the image and likeness of God.  No exceptions.  And as a result, every human being is imbued with an essential dignity that must be honored, respected and protected.  The hate-filled actions of the gunmen belie that fundamental truth.   Whether or not you are religious or have some faith-based beliefs, there is something profoundly wrong in society when people turn to violence against others simply because they belong to a different religious tradition or have a different skin color.  We condemn every action based on hatred, bigotry and violence.

Sadly, this is not the first time we have witnessed, endured and decried the presence and menace of such evil in our midst.  But this can be the last.  This is a time when the whole country can stand up and speak out against it.  This is a time when we must demand of our leaders and each other the guarantee of civility, respect and safety for everyone.  For our sake.  For our children’s sake.  For the sake of our country’s future.  We must not let this hatred, violence and division defeat us.  The only question is:  will we do it?  Or will we once again pay a terrible price for our silence?  People are fond of saying “we are better than this.”  Now is the time to prove it.

May God grant eternal rest to those who were slain.  May God shower peace and consolation on all those who mourn.  And may God have mercy on all of us if we fail to stand up to this moment in history.

The First Step Act Doesn’t Go Far Enough

The First Step Act Doesn’t Go Far Enough

Joan Neal
May 25, 2018

The House just passed the First Step Act, a bill purporting to be a significant step forward in prison reform.  Despite the claims of the bill’s supporters that it will make the prison system fairer and more effective, this bill will not alleviate the overcrowded, discriminatory nature of our federal prison system.  In fact, while it contains some modest reforms such as prohibiting shackles on pregnant women during child birth; adding some educational, job training and personal development programs; and providing limited opportunities to earn ‘time credits’ toward early release, the bill fails to include provisions to overhaul and fundamentally transform the nation’s justice system.  Research shows that we need both sentencing and prison reform to achieve meaningful change in our criminal justice system.  The First Step Act, focusing only on the back end – more geared towards limiting prison time after someone is incarcerated — is inadequate to achieve that goal.

Backed by the White House (Jared Kushner and President Trump), the bill has the support of various individuals and factions of conservatives, including the Koch Brothers, Grover Norquist, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, most House Republicans (especially members of the House Freedom Caucus), Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas), who previously co-sponsored the bi-partisan Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, and some moderate Democrats.  Even with all of that support, the First Step Act fails to address some of the big problems in the current criminal justice system: racial disparities, chronic prison overcrowding, a focus on punishment rather than rehabilitation, and the exorbitant costs of incarceration, borne by the government, tax payers, prisoners and their families.

Moreover, some of its provisions could actually have the opposite effect of its intent by putting in place policies that are more discriminatory toward inmates of color and women.  For instance, it calls for the development of a “risk assessment system,” to be implemented and overseen by the current Attorney General, who has a history of opposing sentencing reform, supporting punitive rather than rehabilitative policies and practices, and targeting immigrants and immigration related offenses.  This bill may well do more harm than good.

Supporters of the bill argue that we must make a choice:  either we pass prison reform or sentencing reform.  There is no possibility to do both.  It’s false to say there is only one choice.  For several years, a comprehensive, bi-partisan bill – the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act – has been gathering support in both houses.  Clearly, passing comprehensive criminal justice reform is possible.  We do not have to choose one or the other.

Meaningful criminal justice reform requires both front and back end changes.  Congress should, therefore, abandon the First Step Act and take up the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act instead.

Jeff Sessions is Wrong On Crime – Again!

Jeff Sessions is Wrong On Crime – Again!

Joan Neal
May 26, 2017

When Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered federal prosecutors to seek the harshest penalties possible under the law for all drug crimes, he signaled he wants to send us back in time.  We tried that strategy and research has shown that it didn’t work.  Under the ‘tough on crime’ approach, during the War on Drugs in the ‘80s and ‘90s, the U.S. prison population soared and the costs of incarceration increased dramatically.  Why, then, would we want to go back to a system that failed to lower crime levels or to make us safer?  Such a policy is clearly wrong on crime.

This order is a direct attempt to undo all of the progress the Obama Administration was attempting to make by focusing on rehabilitation of drug offenders, especially low level, non-violent offenders, and reducing the federal prison population, resulting in millions of dollars of savings in the federal budget.  In contrast, this ‘law and order’ policy will have exactly the opposite effect.  It will not stop – nor even slow down – the drug trade because it is not targeted and it will cost taxpayers more money.  ‘One-size fits all’ sentencing does not deter crime, save money, or make us safer.

But Jeff Sessions has been ‘wrong on crime’ for a long time.  As a Senator, he constantly opposed the growing congressional bi-partisan consensus on sentencing and prison reform, eventually, successfully blocking passage of any reform measure in the Senate.  Now, as Attorney General, he is seeking to institutionalize his outdated, ill-conceived policies that will only prolong the injustices already inherent in the criminal justice system.

History shows that mass incarceration, overcriminalization and prison warehousing have a disproportionately negative impact on communities of color and other marginalized groups.  Having a criminal record is a one-way ticket to intergenerational poverty.  It is an obstacle to employment, housing, education, healthcare and more.  It devastates families and is a drag on the American economy.  Jeff Sessions’ orders will insure that these conditions continue.

Thankfully, proponents of criminal justice reform across the board are still fighting for common sense reforms.  Both houses of Congress have bills pending.  Just this week, Senators Patrick Leahy and Rand Paul re-introduced the Justice Safety Valve Act which is aimed at restoring judicial discretion by giving federal judges the authority to impose sentences below the mandatory minimums when appropriate.  Reforms such as this will begin to restore fairness and equity.

The U.S. has the highest prison population of any country in the world.  This is not a distinction worthy of our values and identity as a proponent of freedom and liberty.  Our union is not yet perfect but we should always be working toward that goal.  Indiscriminately locking up people for long periods of time, no matter the severity of the crime, is unjust and immoral.  Our faith teaches us that there is always the possibility of rehabilitation.  The Attorney General’s approach to fighting crime denies the right of every person to be treated with dignity and respect.  It is inefficient, ineffective and un-American and we should do everything possible to turn it around.

Blog: Sentencing Reform – We’re Almost There!

Sentencing Reform – We’re Almost There!

By Joan Neal
May 26, 2016

Momentum is building in Congress toward comprehensive criminal justice reform.  There are several bills working their way through each chamber but the Senate seems poised to take action.  Since The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015 (S.2123) passed out of the Judiciary committee last October, the bill has garnered additional support across the board.  Not only does it have 37 bi-partisan Senate co-sponsors but also, more than 400 organizations, including law enforcement and federal, state, and local prosecutor groups, have publicly called for its passage.  Although the pace of progress has been slower than supporters desired, the fact that there is forward movement is something to be celebrated!

Since the bill was introduced, a few changes have had to be made to garner additional support from mostly conservative Republican senators.  While the bill still lowers mandatory minimum sentences for most low-level drug offenses, the new language specifically eliminates anyone previously convicted of a violent felony and allows prosecutors the right to ask for a higher minimum sentence for drug crimes involving an opiate drug called Fentanyl.  Despite these changes, the bill is still worthy of support.

In fact, the Congressional Budget Office recently determined that The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015 will save hundreds of millions of dollars over the next 5 years, starting in 2017!  Very few bills that have come out of this Congress save taxpayers this much money!

The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015 is not a perfect bill.  It does not go as far as many would like.  But it is a place to start in the effort to put more proportionality and fairness in the criminal justice system.  It will affect the lives of nearly 2,000 men and women currently serving time in federal prisons.  It will help families reunite and allow returning citizens a second chance to live stable, productive lives.  And, at the end of the day, it will make our communities safer by helping those who have paid their debt to be better prepared to return to society.

There is only one thing standing in the way of making sentencing reform a reality.  Despite all of the bi-partisan support in the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refuses to schedule it for a floor vote.  With over a third of the Senate officially co-sponsoring the bill and many more informally indicating they would it, there is no excuse for McConnell’s obstructionism.

The faith community has been instrumental in pushing this bill toward passage and we must keep up the pressure.  Your voice counts more than ever right now.  Contact your senators and tell them you want Leader McConnell to bring The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015 to the Senate floor for a vote.  Criminal justice reform can pass this year.  Let’s make it happen!

Blog: During Women’s History Month Don’t Forget Women Behind Bars

During Women’s History Month Don’t Forget Women Behind Bars

Joan Neal
March 29, 2016

March is Women’s History month and this year’s theme is “Working to Form a More Perfect Union.” This is certainly a noble goal and one we should aspire to attain. But as we celebrate and honor women this month, let’s not forget that women still suffer, often unjustly, in the United States. Take the criminal justice system for instance. Not only are women treated unequally in this system, they are more often than men, victimized by it. To form a more perfect union we must address this issue.

The number of women in prison has exploded over the last couple of decades. Between 1997 and 2007, the female prison population grew at nearly twice the rate of men. Today, over 100,000 women are imprisoned in federal and state institutions – a 646% increase over the last 30 years! Nearly 58% of these women were jailed for drug offenses because women are more likely than men to be imprisoned for drug and property offenses. (Bureau of Prisons) We can’t form a more perfect union while this inequity exists.

To make matters worse, a quarter of women in state prisons and one third of females in federal prisons are pregnant when they are locked up. This has resulted in a 131% increase in the number of children with a mother in prison compared to a 77% increase in those with a father in prison! (The Sentencing Project) The pipeline of women into the prison system because of mandatory minimum sentencing has left thousands of children without stable homes and deprived them of the experience of a relationship with their birth mother.

While it is certainly clear that some women are guilty of non-violent drug offenses and should be held accountable for their crimes, it is also true that many women are victims of overly long mandatory minimum sentences. We can’t form a more perfect union until judges are able to give sentences that afford women greater opportunity to be treated fairly by the criminal justice system and to be held accountable in a manner that is proportionate to their offense.

Congress can honor women and make history during this National Women’s History Month by passing much needed sentencing reform. The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015 (S.2123) is a vital reform that will reduce some mandatory minimum sentences for people convicted of non-violent drug offenses and help right past wrongs by retroactively applying the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 to approximately 6,000 women and men currently in prison. Although much more reform is needed, these changes are an important first step toward addressing some of the causes of the unsustainable increase in the number of women in the federal prison system.

Now is the time to pass sentencing reform. The Senate Judiciary Committee passed S.2123 over 4 months ago and it is time for the bill to come to the Senate floor for an up or down vote. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell should put justice before partisan interests and bring S.2123 to the floor for a vote right away. Passage of this reform will go a long way toward honoring National Women’s History Month while at the same time helping the country ‘Form a More Perfect Union.’

Blog: The Crucifixion Keeps Happening, Over and Over Again

The Crucifixion Keeps Happening, Over and Over Again

Simone Campbell, SSS
March 14, 2016

The story of Jesus’ passion and death has stirred my imagination since I was a child. In an act of profound mystery, Jesus walks towards the conflict swirling around him. Jesus accepts his arrest and does not raise his voice. His willingness to embrace the consequences of truth-telling leaves him silent in the face of his accusers. His judges repeatedly say they can find no fault in this man, but the people want more. They want someone to blame.

It makes me think of the fear and anger roiling in our nation and capitalized on by some of our presidential candidates. Whom can we blame? Whom can I direct my anger toward? Many holler to deport those who are different. Many demand that the stranger at a rally be expelled. Many people with white skin fear those who have a darker pigment. And those with a darker pigment fear what will happen to them when white fear runs rampant. Fear and hate cause people to demand that those who are different be crucified so that those who are yelling will feel less uncomfortable in our complex society.

But this is the deeper truth: Hate and fear have no place in the Gospel. Jesus welcomes everyone, including Pilate, Herod, Simon of Cyrene, and the women of Jerusalem. He stands in the midst of conflict with reflection and respect. Facing groundless charges, he doesn’t retaliate. He either answers simply or stays silent and lets the scenes play out trusting in the presence of a deeper truth. We are challenged, as a nation, to journey into this deeper truth. This deeper truth is the embodiment of love beyond understanding.

In September 2015, while on our Nuns on the Bus tour in advance of Pope Francis’ visit to the United States, I met women whom I think of as Jesus in the story of the passion. They are in the grip of suffering for their children, yet they do not cry out or retaliate. I met Amy, an African-American mom in St. Louis who worries every day about the safety of her two sons, one in tenth grade and the other in eighth grade. She quizzes them regularly about what to do when stopped by the police. She tells them that they need to keep their hands out of their pockets and their arms away from their body. They need to say “yes sir,” “no sir,” and don’t demonstrate any teenage attitude. She showers her boys with worry and advice so that they might be safe.

Her eighth grader asked her, “Mommy, how long is this going to go on?”

Amy, in her love, told him the current truth. She said, “The rest of your life.”

This is the worry of moms in a society where young African-American teens can be seen too quickly as a threat. It is her worry which is quite like the worry of the women of Jerusalem. On his way to Calvary, Jesus says to them, “Do not weep for me. Weep for yourselves and your children.”

“The question for me is: Was I there when they crucified my Lord?” —@sr_simone

Jesus in his love knows that it is not about him, but the struggles of our families and our destructive tendencies. It is the toxicity of racism that is crucifying our young men in the streets of our cities. We need to weep so that we may act differently.

Also on the bus trip, in Missouri we met the two mothers who started Just Moms STL. They live near the superfund clean-up site known as West Lake Landfill. This buried toxic heap was created by the waste from the creation of the atomic bomb in World War II. This nuclear waste was buried, but has been emitting radiation for over 70 years. Now these mothers have come together because their children have been diagnosed with brain cancer. They discovered that there is a 300 percent increase in the level of childhood brain cancer for those living near this site. Not only that, but we were told that the waste itself has caught fire underground and is gradually smoldering its way towards the Missouri River. And yet, no one is cleaning up the mess. Rather, the corporations are arguing about who should pay for it. They are doing this while children suffer and our land cries out to be rid of the toxicity of human making.

This is the road to Calvary. How do we become Simons of Cyrene to help with these crosses? Are we willing to let our hearts be broken open by the anguish and struggle of our time so that we might find some form of conversion and change?

Jesus walked step by step toward those who condemned him. He revealed the truth either in accepting the title he was given (King of the Jews), or his concern for the women of Jerusalem. In the midst of his anguish, he felt another’s pain. This is the gift of love that is not preoccupied with itself, but rather sees the needs of others. Dare we love enough to move beyond our nation’s endemic racism and embrace Amy and her sons so that their story might have a different ending? Do we love enough to move toward helping the moms trying to save their children from the toxicity that is consuming our planet?

Some presidential candidates breed fear and hate, becoming like the mob in Jesus’ time demanding someone’s life. They nourish the toxicity rife in our society. We as Christians are challenged by Jesus to live differently. We are challenged to stand up for Amy and her sons and the mothers at the West Lake Landfill. Do I act to change the future of our nation or do I too call for blood? The question for me is: Was I there when they crucified my Lord?

This article originally appeared at On Scripture.

Blog: Good News for Juvenile Justice Reform

Good News for Juvenile Justice Reform

By Joan Neal
January 27, 2016

Monday, January 25, 2016 was a double-header for kids in the U.S. criminal justice system, with compassion and justice winning the day. First, the Supreme Court, in a 6-3 decision in the case of Montgomery v. Louisiana,held that its 2012 ruling banning life without parole for children must be applied retroactively.This time, Chief Justice Roberts reversed his earlier position against the ban and voted with the majority. Now the U.S. will no longer be the only country in the world that jails kids and throws away the key.

Thousands of prisoners sentenced as juveniles prior to the Court’s original decision, will be able to request a review of their sentences and have a chance for parole. Pope Francis has called for an end to all life sentences, calling life imprisonment a “hidden death penalty.” Additionally, numerous studies have shown children lack the maturity and judgment of adults, and both their capacity to act responsibly and their ability to reform increases with age. With this decision, the Court aligns the law with existing scientific evidence, real life experience, and basic respect for human dignity.This is a major step in ensuring fairness and compassion in the juvenile justice system.

Second, on the same day, President Obama issued executive orders banning the use of solitary confinement for juveniles in federal prisons. Responding to a Department of Justice study regarding the use of solitary confinement by the Federal Bureau of Prisons, President Obama observed, “The practice of solitary confinement in the federal prison system is overused and has the potential for devastating psychological consequences.” The president’s orders also provide relief to prisoners who are typically subjected to solitary confinement for committing “low-level infractions” and expand access to treatment for mentally ill prisoners.

Traditionally, as a nation, we have not been concerned with how prisoners were treated once they were incarcerated. Clearly, we should care. Many studies show a link between isolating prisoners and an increase in rates of recidivism. The stories of prisoners held in solitary confinement who have developed mental illness or have taken their own or other’s lives once released from prison should serve as cautionary tales.  As the president said, “It [solitary confinement] doesn’t make us safer. It’s an affront to our common humanity.”

All justice-seekers should applaud and support the momentous juvenile justice reforms announced this week. It is admirable that the judicial branch and the executive branch have made these changes. But where is Congress? It’s time for Congress to enact comprehensive criminal justice reform.  Call or email your Senator or Congressional Representative and demand that they pass the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015 (S. 2123) and the Sentencing Reform Act (H.R. 3713) in the House.  When that happens, compassion and justice will have truly won!

Society should hold offenders accountable for their misdeeds. But surely our hearts are big enough to do that with compassion and mercy. “Blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy.”

Blog: Open Letter to Speaker Paul D. Ryan

Open Letter to Speaker Paul D. Ryan

By NETWORK Lobby
October 30, 2015

Dear Speaker Ryan,

Congratulations on your election to Speaker of the House. As you are well aware, we are in a period of great importance for our nation, and your election is highly significant for the future of all the people who rely on your leadership. This is surely not an easy task, but we are hopeful that we can work together to make progress on this goal.

We at NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby look forward to seeing a familiar face in the Speaker’s office. We value having a leader of the House of Representatives who listens to the message of the Gospel, is familiar the tenets of Catholic Social Teaching, and truly wants to make this country a better place for its residents. Though we may differ on many of the policy solutions, we desire the same result, a nation that cares for those who are vulnerable, elderly, sick, immigrants— a thriving nation made up of strong communities.

We agree with you that the House of Representatives “represents the best of America, the boundless opportunity to do good.” We know you have made poverty a special focus of your work over the past few of years. We are grateful that you and other colleagues are giving this issue extra attention in Congress. As Pope Francis said:

“Poverty in the world is a scandal. In a world where there is so much wealth, so many resources to feed everyone, it is unfathomable that there are so many hungry children, that there are so many children without an education, so many poor persons.”

Catholic sisters, including the founders of NETWORK, have been serving and accompanying families and individuals on the economic margins for centuries. We are moved to do this work by our belief that all are made in the image of God. Our common belief in the Dignity of the Human Person means that all women, men, and children are worthy of care and having their basic needs met. We are jointly motivated by the principle of theOption for the Poor and Vulnerable, which calls us to consider the needs of those who are most marginalized and most vulnerable before any other considerations. The Catholic faith we share with you inspires us to work for a nation where all can live safe, healthy, and fulfilled lives. We have faith that you will try to live out this sacred trust as Speaker, and we hope that you will legislate to make sure the needs of all our sisters and brothers are met.

There are many challenges we must overcome to reach that society. Last year more than 45 million people experienced poverty in the United States, over 30 million people did not have health insurance, and over 15 million children lived in food-insecure households. We strongly feel, as Pope Francis said in his address to Congress, “Now is the time for courageous actions and strategies, aimed at implementing a “culture of care” and “an integrated approach to combating poverty.” We will continue our work on Capitol Hill; lobbying for policies that combat poverty and contribute to a culture of care, and we invite you to join us in this undertaking.

Congratulations again. We look forward to working with you, Speaker Ryan.

Blog: Stand Up to the Bullies on Gun Control

Stand Up to the Bullies on Gun Control

By Stephanie Niedringhaus
October 14, 2015

Last week, soon after the mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in Oregon, 20 senators spoke out for commonsense measures to #StopGunViolence. The gun violence crisis is real, and each of us must call for quick action.

Each day, our nation adds new names to the horrifically long list of people who have lost their lives because of guns. In fact, the number (more than 1.5 million) of those who have died because of guns just since 1968 exceeds the number of Americans who have died during ALL U.S. wars (under 1.4 million). Gun violence is one of the most important moral issues we face today.

There is something particularly insidious about the way we treat gun violence in this nation. Immediately after highly publicized shootings, public demands for action to curb such violence are strongly and quickly resisted by a relatively small group of extremists who always seem to triumph, no matter how absurd or dangerous their claims. They actively work to increase people’s fears, citing bogus “facts” to support what they say while deliberately intimidating anyone who disagrees with them.

That intimidation has a strong effect on politicians, who fear the wrath of the NRA and smaller groups of gun rights extremists. But the extremists also target ordinary citizens, showing up at public meetings carrying guns and attacking through social media and other means anyone calling for changes in gun regulations. People are understandably frightened when gun-toting bullies threaten them either directly or indirectly.

Extremists make the absurd claim that we can lower gun violence with easier access to guns. Reasonable people, including a huge percentage of gun owners, favor gun regulations that include stronger background checks for gun buyers along with measures to close loopholes and stop the spread of illegal guns. These are minimal ways to begin to address the gun crisis we have today.

Congress has a duty to listen to the reasonable people, not the extremists, and make us all safer. Legislators currently working on firearms regulation legislation must step up their efforts. And President Obama should also take action now to address loopholes that make it easy for violent people to get guns.

We the People must stand up to the bullies. Today’s epidemic of gun violence requires an urgent response. We must act now.

Blog: Senate Introduces Bipartisan Criminal Justice Reform Bill

Senate Introduces Bipartisan Criminal Justice Reform Bill

By Joan Neal
October 12, 2015

They said it couldn’t be done. Six months ago, if you had asked people who follow federal criminal justice reform if there would be a bill on this issue coming out of the 114thCongress, you would have gotten a big laugh. Even Hill staffers would have had a one word answer “No.”

the Senate recently surprised everyone by doing just that. A group of nine Senators from both parties held a press conference to introduce The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015 which, by their own description, calls for the most significant reforms of the criminal justice system in decades and saves taxpayers millions of dollars in the process.

The bill includes both sentencing and prison reform. With regard to sentencing, some of the key provisions of the bill target and reduce mandatory minimum sentences for some non-violent drug offenses; reduce the three-strike penalty from life imprisonment to 25 years; apply certain provisions of the Fair Sentencing Act and other sentencing reforms retroactively; enhance mandatory sentencing for violent firearms offenders and unlawful possession of firearms; and address mandatory minimums for interstate domestic violence.

To address the burgeoning federal prison population, the bill requires the implementation of evidence-based recidivism reduction programming that not only enhances rehabilitation but also enables offenders to earn ‘credits’ for time served; requires a post-sentencing risk and needs assessment for all prisoners; limits solitary confinement for juveniles and establishes eligibility for parole for juveniles sentenced to life terms as adults or to terms longer than 20 years. Additional administrative reforms are included that require the Federal Bureau of Prisons to operate more efficiently and effectively.

Among the co-sponsors of the bill is the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), previously a staunch opponent of reducing mandatory minimum sentences and other reforms to the criminal justice system. A concerted advocacy effort on the part of the faith community and our national and grass roots partners had a positive impact on his eventual ‘change of heart’. The other original co-sponsors include – Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), John Cornyn (R-TX), Mike Lee (R-UT), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Tim Scott (R-SC).

While ultimate passage of The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015 is not guaranteed, it is an extremely encouraging sign that Congress can accomplish big things if legislators work together for the common good.

Ok, House of Representatives – it’s your turn!