Updates from Capitol Hill


The Justice Center’s government affairs team works to promote the priorities of CSG members and their partners on Capitol Hill and with the executive branch. Legislative services include educating policymakers on complex criminal justice issues and communicating project findings to legislators that can be applied to policymaking and new practices. The team collaborates with experts from a wide range of disciplines and from all branches of government to ensure that policy and legislative recommendations are practical and based on sound data.

Speaker Ryan Pledges Action on Criminal Justice Reform

Ryan said that bills reported out of the House Judiciary Committee—all of which he says he supports—are expected to get floor time this year. But he did not offer a specific time frame, saying that would be up to House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who manages the schedule.

Congress Eschews Conventional Wisdom on Criminal Justice Reform

Conventional Senate wisdom says similar bills should be paired together for the best chance of receiving floor time. But lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have decided the country’s criminal justice system needs repair quickly. So to avoid creating an ominously large political target, elected officials are disentangling the massive topic into three separate, and highly overlapping, threads: sentencing reform, mental health and opioid addiction.

U.S. Senator Cornyn: Bexar’s Mental Health Innovations a National Model

Soon the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee will have an opportunity to highlight legislation I’ve introduced — the Mental Health and Safe Communities Act—that takes some of the lessons learned in Bexar County to the national level. Like the reforms implemented 10 years ago, this legislation is a significant step forward that will help the mentally ill get the treatment they need and equip our nation’s law enforcement officials with tools to keep our communities safe.

House Judiciary Passes Bill to Help Prisoners Reenter Society

The House Judiciary Committee passed the Second Chance Reauthorization Act of 2015 by a voice vote. The bill reauthorizes grant funding for both public and private re-entry programs, including academic and vocational education for offenders in prison, jails and juvenile facilities.

House Judiciary Committee Approves Bill to Improve Care for Mentally Ill Offenders

As part of the House Judiciary Committee’s bipartisan criminal justice reform initiative, the committee recently approved by voice vote the Comprehensive Justice and Mental Health Act of 2015 (H.R. 1854). This bipartisan, bicameral bill–authored by Congressmen Doug Collins (R-Ga.) and Bobby Scott (D-Va.)–reauthorizes and updates the Mentally Ill Offender Treatment and Crime Reduction Act, which was signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2004.

Speaker Ryan Set to Focus on Justice Reform

House Republicans will go on their annual retreat this week and Democrats will go on theirs the week after. Since justice reform appears to be ready to move forward in the House, the question is: Will Majority Leader Mitch McConnell allow it to move in the Senate.

Fact Sheets

The Second Chance Act (Fact Sheet)

The Second Chance Act (Fact Sheet)

Nearly all of the 1.6 million individuals incarcerated in the U.S. will be released at some point. Individuals returning to their communities from prison or jail have complex challenges and needs that contribute to the likelihood that they may return to incarceration.

The Mentally Ill Offender Treatment and Crime Reduction Act (Fact Sheet)

The Mentally Ill Offender Treatment and Crime Reduction Act (Fact Sheet)

A 2006 Department of Justice study showed that approximately 45 percent of federal inmates, 56 percent of state inmates,and 64 percent of jail inmates displayed symptoms or had a history of a mental disorder; among female inmates in state prisons, the rate was nearly three out of four.

Paul Ryan Dreams of a Kinder, More Substantive GOP

With the presidential candidates sparring over whether to bar Muslims from the United States and discussing the merits of spanking children, top House leadership aides say Speaker Ryan is trying to give his party something to run on.

Congress Funds Key Criminal Justice Programs

Congress Funds Key Criminal Justice Programs

Congress approved a $1.15 trillion Omnibus Appropriations bill that would fund three key programs championed by The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center: the Second Chance Act (SCA), the Mentally Ill Offender Treatment and Crime Reduction Act (MIOTCRA), and the Justice Reinvestment Initiative. The spending bill includes the fiscal year 2016 Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) Appropriations bill, which provides $28.7 billion to support U.S. Department of Justice programs.

U.S. Senate Passes the Comprehensive Justice and Mental Health Act

U.S. Senate Passes the Comprehensive Justice and Mental Health Act

The bipartisan Senate legislation, introduced by U.S. Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) and U.S. Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) in April, reauthorizes the successful Mentally Ill Offender Treatment and Crime Reduction Act (MIOTCRA) to improve responses to people with mental illnesses in the criminal justice system. Thirty-two senators signed on as co-sponsors of the legislation before the vote. The bill now moves to the U.S. House of Representatives for consideration.