On the afternoon of March 29, Kentucky advocates, including faith leaders and students, will hold a press conference outside the Lexington office of Sen. Mitch McConnell, to demand that he bring an important criminal justice reform bill to the Senate floor for a vote.
The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, spearheaded by Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA), would reduce mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses, expand the federal "safety valve" (which allows judges to use their discretion to sentence people below statutory mandatory minimums), and expand reentry programming and early release, among other things.
The bill has broad bipartisan support, with 29 Republican and Democratic Senators currently sponsoring. The bill was passed by the Senate's Judiciary Committee last October, and is now awaiting a vote on the floor. House Speaker Paul Ryan recently promised to bring criminal justice reform legislation up for a vote, but Mitch McConnell has not made the same commitment.
Advocates will deliver a petition that was organized by Drug Policy Alliance, Change.org, #cut50, and Students for Sensible Drug Policy. The petition was signed by over 30,000 people, and calls for McConnell to schedule a vote on the bill.
- Rev. Dean W. Bucalos, Program Coordinator, Mission Behind Bars and Beyond.
- Rev. D. Anthony Everett, Pastor, Wesley United Methodist Church (Lexington, KY), Commissioner At Large, Kentucky Commission on Human Rights
- Peggy Cecil Hinds, Interim Executive Director, Kentucky Council of Churches
- John Hay - Kentucky Statewide Organizer, Drug Policy Alliance
- Grant Victor - President University of Kentucky Chapter for Students for Sensible Drug Policy
What: Press Conference and petition delivery to push Sen. McConnell on criminal justice reform
Where: 771 Corporate Dr, Lexington, KY 40503
When: Tuesday, March 29, 3PM (EST)
Faith leaders in Kentucky have consistently pressured McConnell to hold a vote on this important bill. "More discretion in sentencing, less desire to lock people away (knowing that 95% return to our communities) and more attention to preparing people to become healthy, productive citizens makes the most sense. Isn't that what we all want as we pursue justice and seek safe communities? Isn't that what we want our legislators in Washington to work for?"" said, Rev. Dean W. Bucalos. Similarly, Reverend D. Anthony Everett noted that, "The concept of justice, referred to in Micah 6:8 of the Bible and required of humanity by God is restorative justice. My Christian faith, based upon this principle, moves me to support prison reform and fair sentencing guidelines by urging my Senator from the Commonwealth of Kentucky, the Honorable Mitch McConnell, to do what is right and bring this bipartisan bill to the floor for a vote."
Kentucky's students have also spoken out about the need for reform. "It is in the best interest of our nation, our communities, and our families that we reform our criminal justice system away from punitive punishment, and toward rehabilitation. If we are to hold ourselves as the exceptional nation, we must conduct ourselves as such, and this ought to include our incarcerated individuals," stated Grant Victor, President University of Kentucky Chapter for Students for Sensible Drug Policy.
John Hay, Kentucky Statewide Organizer for Drug Policy Alliance, noted that "This bill has support from liberals, and conservatives, Democrats, and Republicans, as well as the White House. It is one of the few major pieces of legislation that could get passed this year. Senator McConnell must not stand in the way."