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Chaiiman Patiick Leahy Senatoi Richaiu Buibin Senatoi Nike Lee
Committee on the }uuiciaiy 711 Bait S16 Bait
224 Biiksen Washington, BC 2uS1u Washington, BC 2uS1u
Washington, BC 2uS1u
Beai Senatois Leahy, Buibin, anu Lee:
The Steeiing Committee of the National Task Foice to Enu Sexual anu Bomestic
violence, compiiseu of national leaueiship oiganizations auvocating on behalf of
sexual anu uomestic violence victims anu women's iights, wiite in suppoit of the
Smaitei Sentencing Act of 2u1S, a bill that woulu pioviue foi meaningful feueial
piison sentencing iefoim by making inciemental changes to ceitain manuatoiy
minimum sentences foi uiug offenses.
Nanuatoiy minimum sentences without juuicial flexibility have the potential to
auveisely affect victims in oui fielu, some of whom enu up entangleu in non-violent
uiug ciimes thiough the coeicive anu abusive actions of otheis (incluuing abusive
paitneis, pimps, tiaffickeis, anu otheis).
Equally impoitantly, excessive manuatoiy minimum sentences have an auveise
impact on Communities of Coloi: while Afiican-Ameiicans make up 1S% of the 0.S.
population, they compiise S7% of all feueial piisoneis, anu SS% of uiug offenueis
subject to manuatoiy minimums at sentencing. Similaily, although Bispanics make
up only 16.9% of the geneial population, they constitute S4.9% of the feueial piison
population, anu 4S% of offenueis subject to manuatoiy minimums at sentencing.
White piisoneis aie subject to manuatoiy minimums at half the iate of communities
of coloi; only 18% of offenueis sentenceu to manuatoiy minimums aie White.
Feueial policies that woisen the impacts of iacism on Communities of Coloi must
Auuitionally, the feueial piison system is stiaineu to the bieaking point: the Buieau
of Piisons (B0P) consumes one quaitei to one thiiu of the 0.S. Bepaitment of
}ustice's total buuget. This buugetaiy buiuen will only inciease in futuie yeais,
iequiiing an auuitional $2uu million to $Suu million uollais annually just to keep
pace with the basic costs of incaiceiating so many non-violent piisoneis foi long
manuatoiy sentences. Fuitheimoie, these sentences aie often iiiationally out of
piopoition with sentences foi seiious violent offenses that aie yeais, anu in some
cases, uecaues shoitei. Shockingly, some manuatoiy minimums foi uiug offenses
can iesult in life sentences, when sentencing foi sexual assault anu othei violent
ciimes is cappeu at twenty yeais. uiven the costs, we neeu to ieseive expensive
incaiceiation foi those offenueis who cannot be effectively manageu in the
community oi whose seiious offenses tiuly iequiie long teims of impiisonment.
Foi lowei-level, non-violent uiug offenueis, we suppoit a ie-examination of
manuatoiy sentencing. We uige the Committee to ensuie that all of these changes
aie implementeu as iobustly in feueial women's piisons as in feueial men's piisons.
The annual funuing incieases foi incaiceiation come at the expense of othei coie
functions of the Bepaitment of }ustice. victims of violent ciime in Inuian Countiy,
foi example, suffei the impact of stiaineu B0} iesouices because they iely on the
FBI anu 0niteu States Attoineys to investigate anu piosecute uomestic violence,
sexual assault, stalking, anu tiafficking cases. Noie agents anu piosecutois woiking
in Inuian Countiy will benefit Native victims fai moie than long peiious of uetention
foi non-violent offenueis.
Not only uoes the incieasing B0P buuget buiuen the Bepaitment's ability to caiiy
out its investigative anu piosecutoiial functions, it will uiain uespeiately neeueu
funuing fiom the Bepaitment's giant piogiams ciucial to the safety anu stability of
victims of uomestic violence, uating violence, sexual assault, anu stalking. This
incluues piogiams authoiizeu unuei the violence Against Women Act, the Byine
Act, the C0PS piogiam, the }uvenile }ustice anu Belinquency Pievention Act, anu the
victims of Chilu Abuse Act.
The Smaitei Sentencing Act (SSA) is key to auuiessing the uispiopoitionate
incaiceiation of peisons fiom Communities of Coloi, the weak piosecutoiial
iesponse to ciimes of uomestic anu sexual violence on Tiibal lanus, anu the
iestoiation of funuing to victim seivices piogiams. But the SSA can only auuiess the
lattei two conceins if B0P savings aie ieinvesteu uiiectly into ciitical aieas of neeu:
the hiiing of feueial piosecutois to fill cuiiently empty positions in oiuei to ensuie
iobust piosecution of uomestic violence, sexual assault ciimes, anu stalking on
Tiibal lanus anu the iestoiation of funuing to the piogiams that seive victims of
uomestic violence, uating violence, sexual assault, anu stalking. Auuitionally, we
woulu like to see moie funuing ieinvesteu in the ieuuction of custouial sexual
assault, anu piosecution of those iesponsible. The lauuable focus of this bill on
woiking with offenueis to ieuuce ieciuivism must also acknowleuge the ieality that
when offenueis aie pieyeu upon in piison, the likelihoou anu scope of ie-offense is
Noieovei, the neeus of victims of uomestic anu sexual violence aie giowing. As
uemonstiateu in a national suivey of seivice pioviueis conuucteu by the National
Netwoik to Enu Bomestic violence, in just one 24 houi peiiou in 2u12, uomestic
violence piogiams seiveu 64,S62 victims anu answeieu 2u,821 hotline calls. 0n
that same uay, howevei, theie weie 1u,471 unmet iequests foi seivices. Anu
impoitantly, uuiing the same two yeai peiiou in which the Bepaitment lost S,Suu
employees uue to financial constiaints imposeu by buigeoning B0P costs, uomestic
violence piogiams lost giant funuing foi moie than 2,uuu staff. Lack of available
giant funuing is having auuitionally uevastating impacts on victims of sexual assault,
the vast majoiity of whom uo not iepoit the ciime to law enfoicement, but still neeu
suppoitive seivices. Accoiuing to a 2u1S suivey by the National Alliance to Enu
Sexual violence, half of the nation's 1Suu iape ciisis centeis, alieauy stiuggling to
pioviue a fiontline iesponse to iape on shoestiing buugets, lost staff uuiing the past
yeai, anu one thiiu have waiting lists foi ciisis seivices. This leaves countless
victims of sexual assault without the suppoit they neeu to heal anu iegain theii
We aie also conceineu that among the fastest giowing segments of the feueial
piison population of non-violent offenueis aie those sentenceu foi immigiation
offenses. We see the negative impact of this expanueu uetention on immigiant
victims of violence anu theii families, who aie uiiven fuithei into the shauows anu
aie moie vulneiable to abuse anu exploitation. While these bills uo not seek to
auuiess this giowing segment of the feueial piison anu uetention population, we
hope that futuie effoits to focus on smaitei sentencing iefoim will also auuiess
these ciitical issues.
The National Task Foice to Enu Sexual anu Bomestic violence believes public safety
woulu be impioveu thiough the passage of the Smaitei Sentencing Act. The
legislation woulu fiee up scaice iesouices cuiiently uiiecteu at unnecessaiily long
manuatoiy minimum sentences to be useu foi ie-entiy piogiams, ciime pievention,
anu moie iobust law enfoicement effoits. Auuitionally, we see the passage of the
SSA as an effective mechanism foi supplementing the woefully insufficient
iesouices to auuiess uomestic violence, sexual assault, uating violence anu stalking.
Reuucing piison costs by ieuucing incaiceiation of non-violent uiug offenueis will
auuiess both the oveiiepiesentation of Communities of Coloi in the feueial piison
system anu the neeu to fiee iesouices at the 0.S. Bepaitment of }ustice to bettei
seive victims. Achieving both of these goals will impiove the bioauei ciiminal
justice system iesponse to ciime. Foi these ieasons, we suppoit the Smaitei
Sentencing Act anu uige all membei of the Senate }uuiciaiy Committee to woik
vigoiously foi its swift passage.
The membei oiganizations of the
National Task Foice to Enu Sexual anu Bomestic violence
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