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Congressman Bobby Scott (D-VA) focuses this week’s CBC message to America on the need to reform our nation’s criminal justice system.

Scott began his address by reminding viewers: “For too long policy makers have chosen to play politics with primepolicy by enacting so-called tough on crime slogans and soundbites.

“As appealing as these policies may sound, their impact ranges from negligible reduction in crime to actually increasing the crime rate.”

Rep. Scott also reminded viewers of the overwhelming number of incarcerated Americans as it relates to the number of people locked behind bars on a global scale. According to Scott, the United States makes up only five percent of the world’s population, American houses 25 percent of the prisoners in the world.

The congressman from the Commonwealth of Virginia continued, America “has the highest incarceration rate of any nation by far in the world.”

Scott expounded upon the alarming incarceration rates and said, “There are 2.2 million people behind bars in this country, triple the number three decades ago.”

Rep. Scott went on to explain what any criminal justice reform measures must address:

  • Mass incarceration
  • Mandatory minimum sentencing
  • Racial disparities
  • Treat mental health and drug addiction issues as public health issues

“Reform must change our basic policy make of slogans and soundbites to making sure that the reforms are based on research and evidence,” said Scott.

Showing his commitment to criminal justice reform, Congressman Scott co-sponsored the Safe Justice Act which was introduced by Republican Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner and has received considerable support from the Congressional Black Caucus.

This particular piece of proposed legislation includes evidence-based in prevention and intervention programs that reduces incarceration on both the state and federal levels.

Scott explained that the Safe Justice Act also provides funds for comprehensive police training and funding for body cameras and drug courts, as well as includes significant reduction of the use of mandatory minimum sentencing.

Adding to the benefits of the proposed bill, Scott said the Safe Justice Act “provides rehabilitation of for all of those in prison and a second chance for those who’ve been released.”

Imploring viewers to support criminal justice reform, Congressman Scott said, “We have a once in a generation opportunity to fix our criminal justice system — it’s time to enact significant and meaningful reforms to make our justice system more safe, accountable, fair and effective.”

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