Speaking in front of an eager crowd at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, DC, on June 20, U.S. Senator John Cornyn of Texas laid out his vision for criminal justice reform. Cornyn, the current majority whip of the U.S. Senate, has worked hard to steer the Republican Party towards supporting a comprehensive reform of the criminal justice system, while also building coalitions with like-minded pro-reform individuals across the aisle.
In his remarks, Senator Cornyn stated that now is the “time for a complete reform at the federal level.” Citing effective state measures to curb issues with budget constraints, including those in his home state, Cornyn declared that “we must be smart on crime, not tough on crime.” He described three fundamental aspects required of a proper judicial system—punishment, deterrence, and rehabilitation. Although firm in his belief that public safety should always be the first and foremost priority, Cornyn believes that our country has largely neglected the rehabilitative aspect of criminal justice.
But judicial reform does not have to come at the expense of justice. Cornyn said that with the money and time saved by imprisoning fewer people, more focus can be placed on those who pose a higher threat to the public. He told the audience that his reforms “will not make jail cells swing open.” Rather, Cornyn suggested lowering mandatory minimum sentencing and investing in recidivism reduction. Such an approach would lead to fewer people incarcerated, but would also keep the public safe from those who may wish to do them harm.
Senator Cornyn is an original co-sponsor of the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, which would invest in programs to reduce the rates of recidivism and also reduce mandatory minimum sentencing for certain non-violent crimes. Cornyn has worked effectively with members of both parties on the issue, uniting everyone from top Republican leaders like Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Mike Lee (R-UT) to leaders on the political left like Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT). Should the bill pass, Cornyn anticipates it will “reform our criminal justice system and protect our communities.”