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Bi-Partisan Senate Agreement Lacks Mens Rea and Civic Asset Forfeiture

WASHINGTON, D.C.  October 1, 2015 – Former New York City Police Commissioner Bernie Kerik praised members of the United States Senate Wednesday for moving ahead with legislation to bring much needed reform to the federal prison system but criticized the bill for not going further.

“I’m very happy to see the Senate making a true bi-partisan effort on what is a very complex issue.” Said Kerik, “However, this agreement lacks and needs to address mens rea and civil assets forfeiture which we see as a bigger problem. There are already numerous programs in place for non-violent offenders to reduce their sentences. ”

A bi-partisan group of Senate leaders have struck a deal on criminal legislation that would allow well-behaved prisoners the opportunity to earn time off their sentences, which would effectively reduce mandatory minimums for non-violent drug offenders. This deal is said to make the criminal justice system fairer, particularly for African Americans and Latinos who have been incarcerated for extended periods of time on minor drug offenses.

The Senate Leaders who have agreed to the deal are: Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Republican Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas), Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.).

Bernie Kerik, one of the nations most accomplished leaders in law enforcement, correction, and national security, and spokesman for the American Coalition for Criminal Justice Reform has met with members of the both the House and Senate Judiciaries over the past year to discuss the systems flaws, failures and offer solutions.

            Mens Rea is the mental state a person must be in while committing a crime for it to be intentional. It can refer to a general intent to break the law or a specific, premeditated plan to commit a particular offense. To safeguard against over criminalization, there needs to be in place an adequate mens rea requirement in criminal laws. While sentencing reform addresses how long people should serve once convicted, mens rea reform addresses those who never should have been convicted in the first place: people who engaged in conduct without any knowledge of or intent to violate the law and that they could not reasonably have anticipated would violate a criminal law.

Civil asset forfeiture is a legal tool that allows law enforcement officials to seize property that they assert has been involved in certain criminal activity. In fact, the owner of the property doesn’t even need to be guilty of a crime: Civil asset forfeiture proceedings charge the property itself with involvement in a crime. This means that police can seize your car, home, money, or valuables without ever having to charge you with a crime.

“The Senate really needs to be deal with over criminalization as whole and not just cherry pick an already in place solution. If we can’t tackle these important details the system will just continue to fail. ” – Bernie Kerik

ACCJR will be in Iowa today for the Iowa Criminal Justice Summit. Commissioner Kerik will be heading a panel discussion on The Inequities of the Criminal Justice System where he will provide insights on criminal justice and prison reform, drawing from his law enforcement background and subsequent incarceration. For more information please follow the link – http://www.vpaf.uni.edu/events/equaljustice/schedule.shtml

 

            The American Coalition for Criminal Justice Reform 501 c4 is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organizations established to advocate for common sense, science and statistic based initiatives that will transform our outdated judicial sentencing guidelines by addressing over-criminalization and other aspects of criminal justice badly in need of reform. ACCJR works to create sensible change to state and federal laws and regulations that will improve the social and economic lives of American families.

 

Contact: Chad Proudlock

Phone:    202-341-9171

Email:    proudlock@accjr.org

Web at http://accjr.org/

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