tv U.S. Senate Dick Durbin on Criminal Justice CSPAN December 18, 2018 12:24am-12:42am EST
transform their lives if they are willing to take the steps of the responsibility to do so so we are not capitulating the cycle of crime that continues to plague communities across the country and to drain taxpayer dollars in the process and to damage public safety. i want to thank out all of our colleagues who work so hard on this legislation. when the most important attributes of the senators to listen and to listen to our constituents, listened to the feedback from our members and help build a better bill that will give more support than otherwise it would have. congress it will pass this bill in the concision sent to the president's desk for his signature. madam president i yield thent floor. >> with me start by joining my colleague democratic leader and his words about the great senator and personal friend
someone i'm sorry to us bringing his senate career to an end. he's done so many good things. i could spell out many of those things for one comes to mind immediately. two years ago when i was deciding whether to run for re-election myself without one of michael's. >> to increase the federal investment in medical research that is righthe in the wheel housing committee jurisdiction of lamar alexander. i went to him and his counterpart on the democratic side were abundant misery we put together an informal team pushing for increases in medical research and we have had amazing success. it's been bipartisan and there has been an enthusiastic effort. we couldn't have done it without lamar's wholehearted participation. he's been committed to research and as a result we have had a high% increase each year in the
last four years in the budget and appropriations for the national institutes of health. that is going to end up creating more opportunities and spare people suffering and cure disease and save lives than we can possibly imagine. that's the kind of thing that people expect of us, don't they hear in the senate for the democrats and republicans will find a common goal and work together to achieve it. lamar alexander was part of the successful effort and i'm holding it to him for the next two years as i'm sure he will hold me to the same goal. i look or to caring -- working with him and i have a pain in my heart to hear that his career is coming to an end. as a presidential candidate in a cabinet member and a member of the united states senate and i'm sorry for his decision but i certainly understand. madam president a note note to
the injured into a separate place in the record i'd like to say a few words about the legislation currently pending before united states senate. every once in a while and it doesn't happen very often the stars light up and the democrats and republicans and the conservatives and progressives and the president and the congress agree on something. we are not talking about flag day or appleer pie or whether lassie was a collie dog. it comes down to an occasion of something that's meaningful and we are in the midst now on the floor of the united states senate which will culminate probably tomorrow in some historic votes while the whole question of criminal justice reform. how important is this issue? it so important that we rarely take it up more than once a decade and we sit down and look at criminal justice standards and laws in america decide whether or not we can make it better or just a few minutes ago my colleague from texas center
cornyn a conservative republican came to the floor to explain how the state of texas engaged in prison reform and found out that they could not only reduce the prison population but reduce the incidence of crime at the same time. that is at the federal level as well in senator cornyn introduced a measure with senator whitehouse of rhode islandar. it's been a simple part of our conversation on criminal justice reform. i had another part of criminal i've been working on for a long, long time. you see three decades ago congress responded to our nation struggling by creating the harshest mandatory minimum sentences in our history. consider what happened next as we made the penalties for drug h use and sales higher than ever in our history. what happened next was the use of illegal drugs in united states of america actually increased great just the
opposite of what we were trying to achieve. the availability of heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine increased despite harsh criminal penalties. in other words longer president trump's did not deter drug use or drug crime but they did lead to an explosion in our federal prisons. 1980, the federal prison population has grown by over 700%. federal prison spending increased by nearly 600% and that period of time predictive united states of america holds more prisoners in prison than any country in the world. america has 5% of the worlds population, 25% of the worlds prisoners. more than russia or china.
our overcrowded federal prisons consume one quarter of the justice department's discretionary budget. this undermines other important priorities like treating drug addiction. the largest increase in the federal prison population is for nonviolent drug offenders. this is largely because of the inflexible mandatory sentences. these mandatory penalties allowed judges to distinguish between drug kingpins who should be in our focus when it comes to criminal penalties and lower-level offenders. that is a fair, smart and effective way to keep us safe. .. in america are white. but three-quarters of the people serving time in prison for drug
offenses are african american or latino. the majority of the users and dealers, white. three-fourths of those who go to prison for drug crimes, african american and latino. the large majority of those subject to federal mandatory minimum penalties fall into that same group of african americans and latinos. as a result of mandatory minimums, the families of nonviolent offenders are separated for years on end. most of these families are people of color. this has a destructive impact on their communities and erodes faith among them in our criminal justice system. most senators don't come to the floor and say what i'm about to most senators don't saysa but im about to say the post debate co- first votdebate co-first vote ie house of representatives that ks about 25, 26 years ago when i voted for the law that
established the sentencing disparity that means under this law it took 100 times more than teack cocaine to trigger the same minimum sentence. this came to be known as the disparity and under this law 80% of the people were african-american. in 2010 i worked with an unlikely ally in senator from alabama jeff sessions. he was theco republican senator and member of the judiciary committee that felt strongly about this issue and i said to him 100-1 isn't fair for a tiny handful of powder cocaine that ithey would get 100 times the offense doesn't make any sense.
he didn't agree to the day finally came when we had to make a decision we actually bargained in the senate. it dramatically reduced the disparity in sentencing between crack cocaine and powder cocaine that passed the senate judiciary committee, the senate, the house judiciary committee, the house signed into law in a private ceremony by president obama and senator sessions and i attended. for the last five years, i've been working on the next step of bipartisan coalition of republicans and democratic senators to take the next step in reforming th the federal drug sentencing laws.
five years ago i joined up with another unlikely ally very, very conservative republican from utah to introduce the so-called smarter sentencing. there was a republican senator who didn't like the bill at all. his name, chuck grassley, coincidentally chairma chairmane senate judiciary committee. we've got to get him on board if we are going to change the law. it took a year. it took a year of negotiating for us to finally reach an agreement that we likely all signed on to for the sentencing ireform. we were joined by senator cory booker in the last year or two democrats in new jersey and after more than a year of negotiationnegotiations we intra sentencing reform collections act which is nation approved by the committee by the vote of
16-5 earlier this year and around the same time they passed bipartisan legislation to reform the federal prison system. this bill was supported by president donald trump, cosponsored by the republicanan congressman, democratic congressman jeffries of new york and the republican house judiciary committee chairman bob goodlatte of virginia. i didn't like the original version of the bill because i thought we could do better and we should add criminal sentencing to prison reform than we did something that's rare. we sat down, democrats and republicans and worked it out. we came up with a bipartisan bill by combining the two. the revised first step act is a bipartisan sentencing prison reform bill.
should apply the bill also put in place a recidivism program that would facilitate the rehabilitation and reentry for senator cornyn just a few minutes earlier. let me tell you a story about this man here. in the year 1994 at the age of 24, he was given a mandatory life sentence without parole for a low-level nonviolent drug offense. when he stepped into the federal prison cell with a life sentence, he was stepping into a jail cell for the first time in his life and he was bound to stay there for the rest of his life.
the first act would eliminate the mandatory life sentence for the nonviolent drug offenders like alton mills for the nonviolent offenses t it will offer three amendments that i consider the hard work putting these bills together democrats and republicans, police, prosecutors, the aclu, president trump together on a bill and now comes the senator from arkansas has introduced three amendments that i think are very destructive to the build. i'm going to post all three of them and i hope you'll think twice about them. we have an opportunity to do something historic and bipartisan for the good of the nation. we could end up reducing the
crime rate in the country and to do it in a smarter way with sentencing and prison reform. i'm not going to get into a specific discussion until later that i want to let the senator of arkansas know that we are hopeful he will take a more constructive approach. it doesn't go far enough for the mandatory sentencing mentioned earlier. that's the nature of legislation and compromise and that's what the senate iss all about.
congress should make this bipartisan legislation a fitting ending to this here for all of the cynicism and skepticism about what the congress can achieve with the historic changes in criminal justice legislation inn our history that we can work together for the good of the nation. people sent us to this job and expect no less. i yield back the floor. we're here today to begin debate on a piece of legislation called the first step act of 2018. this happens to be the most significant criminal justice reform bill