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Senators propose sentencing reform to reduce prison overcrowding

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U.S. senators on Thursday proposed a bipartisan plan for reforming criminal justice, aiming to ditch harsh sentencing laws that lead to prison overcrowding and to limit solitary confinement for juveniles.

The legislative proposal would end the national “three-strikes-and-you’re-out” law, which mandates life sentences for people convicted of a violent felony after two or more previous convictions, including drug crimes.

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The proposal would also give judges more leeway in sentencing low-level offenders, and improve prisoner rehabilitation programs. But under the measure, enhanced prison penalties could still be applied to offenders with prior convictions for serious violent offences and serious drug felonies, a Senate fact sheet said.

The legislation was introduced by nine senators from both political parties, including Republican Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Dick Durbin, the Senate’s No. 2 Democrat.

A separate bill in the House of Representatives would also reduce use of mandatory sentences.

The outlook for passage of either measure was uncertain.

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President Barack Obama, who also favors criminal justice reform, welcomed the legislation.

“The broad and impressive bipartisan coalition that created the bill makes me optimistic that members on both sides of the aisle, in both houses, will continue to work together on this critical issue in the coming weeks and months and put a meaningful criminal justice reform bill on my desk before the end of this year,” Obama said in a statement.

Durbin said that while mandatory minimum sentences were once seen as a strong deterrent, they have too often been unfair, and led to overcrowded prisons and tighter budgets.

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The drumbeat for reform has grown as U.S. crime rates have drastically declined over the past two decades. Lengthy prison sentences for nonviolent drug offenders are increasingly seen as racially imbalanced and disproportionate to the crimes.

President Barack Obama, a Democrat, also favors criminal justice reform. During the summer he toured a federal prison and vowed to work to address prison overcrowding.

More than 1.5 million Americans were in state or federal prisons at the end of 2013, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. African-Americans were 15 percent of the U.S. population at that time but accounted for about a third of its prisoners.

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(Reporting by Susan Cornwell; Additional reporting by Jeff Mason; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh, Grant McCool and Ken Wills)

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Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. Like you, we here at Raw Story believe in the power of progressive journalism — and we’re investing in investigative reporting as other publications give it the ax. Raw Story readers power David Cay Johnston’s DCReport, which we've expanded to keep watch in Washington. We’ve exposed billionaire tax evasion and uncovered White House efforts to poison our water. We’ve revealed financial scams that prey on veterans, and efforts to harm workers exploited by abusive bosses. We’ve launched a weekly podcast, “We’ve Got Issues,” focused on issues, not tweets. Unlike other news sites, we’ve decided to make our original content free. But we need your support to do what we do.

Raw Story is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. We’re not part of a conglomerate, or a project of venture capital bros. From unflinching coverage of racism, to revealing efforts to erode our rights, Raw Story will continue to expose hypocrisy and harm. Unhinged from corporate overlords, we fight to ensure no one is forgotten.

We need your support to keep producing quality journalism and deepen our investigative reporting. Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Invest with us in the future. Make a one-time contribution to Raw Story Investigates, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you.



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Trump: ‘Any Jewish people’ who vote for Democrats have ‘a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty’

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President Donald Trump on Tuesday accused the majority of Jewish American voters of having "a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty" because they support Democrats.

While discussing Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) during a talk with reporters, the president said he couldn't imagine any Jewish American voting for the Democrats due to the congresswomen's comments about Israel.

"I think any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat, I think it shows either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty," Trump said.

In fact, the majority of Jews in the United States have voted for Democratic candidates in every election since the election of President Franklin Roosevelt in 1932.

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Conservative columnist blasts GOP as ‘partisan hacks for whom hypocrisy is second-nature’

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On Tuesday, President Donald Trump once again ripped into The Squad, this time to undercut an emotional press conference in which Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MN) described the conditions her Palestinian relatives live under.

“Sorry, I don’t buy Rep. Tlaib’s tears. I have watched her violence, craziness and, most importantly, WORDS, for far too long,” the president tweeted. “Now tears? She hates Israel and all Jewish people. She is an anti-Semite. She and her 3 friends are the new face of the Democrat Party. Live with it!”

Sorry, I don’t buy Rep. Tlaib’s tears. I have watched her violence, craziness and, most importantly, WORDS, for far too long. Now tears? She hates Israel and all Jewish people. She is an anti-Semite. She and her 3 friends are the new face of the Democrat Party. Live with it!

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‘They’re with me all the way’: Trump uses Log Cabin Endorsement as shield when asked about destroying LGBT rights

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President Donald Trump has not publicly acknowledged the early endorsement he received late last week from the gay Republican group Log Cabin Republicans, but he was quick to mention it when asked about his record of destroying the civil rights of LGBTQ people.

Trump bragged, “they’re with me all the way, and I just got a big endorsement from the Log Cabin group,” during a Tuesday afternoon press gaggle, according to pool reports.

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