Louisiana is the "incarceration capital of the world": In the country with the highest rate of incarceration on the planet, we're also the state with the highest proportion of its residents sentenced to prison.
Mandatory minimum sentencing, where judges were required to impose mandatory jail time for non-violent drug offenses as part of the failed War on Drugs, was a big reason behind how we got to this sorry state. These mandatory minimum sentences disproportionately affected poor, urban African-American and Latino Americans and led to over-crowded prisons, the rise of private prisons, and widespread disenfranchisement of minority communities. Plus, even after convicts serve their time, many still can't vote, find jobs, get loans, or even rent apartments, which has had a devastating effect on communities across America.
Yet despite all this, Attorney General Jeff Sessions still wants to bring back mandatory minimum sentencing.
Luckily, Congress has stood up for what's right. (I don't get to say that as often as I'd like to, so I enjoy it when I can!)
The Justice Safety Valve Act (HR 2435 in the House/S 1127 in the Senate) is a bipartisan effort that would enable prosecutors and judges to use their discretion in sentencing, and consider each case on its own merits. It's a push back against Sessions's regressive sentencing policies, and as both bills go to their respective Judiciary committees we should let our legislators know we support the measure. (NOTE: Senator Kennedy is on the Senate Judiciary Committee!)
WHO TO CALL:
Senator Bill Cassidy - in DC at (202) 224-5824, and in Metairie at (504) 838-0130.
Senator John Kennedy - in DC at (202) 224-4623, and in Monroe at (318) 361-1489.
Representative Cedric Richmond - in DC at (202) 225-6636, and in New Orleans at (504) 288-3777
Representative Steve Scalise - in DC at (202) 225-3015, and in Metairie at (504) 837-1259
Because of how Congressional districts are drawn, New Orleans residents have either Richmond or Scalise as their representative. If you don't know who your representative is, you can look it up by entering your home Zip Code on the U.S. House of Representatives website.
Reminders: Identify where you're calling from (town and zip code is fine) so they know you're an actual constituent. Only call your own representative. Be concise - the office will get through more calls that way. Be polite and don't argue with the staffer - they don't set policy. If you get a voicemail, then leave a message. And if you get a busy signal -- call back later!
Hi, my name is [Name] from New Orleans, zip code 70118 [or wherever you're from]. I don't need a response.
I'm calling because I want the Congressman to vote YES on the Justice Safety Valve Act, if it makes it out of committee. (FOR SENATOR KENNEDY: I'm calling because I want the Senator to vote YES on the Justice Safety Valve Act when it comes up in the Judiciary Committee). I believe that prosecutors and judges should be allowed to consider sentencing for each case on its own merits, instead of being forced to impose mandatory minimum sentences that directly result in mass incarceration.
Thank you for your time and your work answering phones.
This call is courtesy of Indivisible Metairie.