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Senate Judiciary Committee To Unveil Criminal Justice Overhaul Proposal


Despite all the talk of political impasse in Washington, NPR has learned that Democrats and Republicans in the Senate are working together to unveil a major plan tomorrow. As NPR's Carrie Johnson reports, that plan is aimed at reforming the criminal justice system.

CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: The drumbeat for rethinking the tough on crime approach to U.S. prisons and sentences has been building all year. Robert Rooks is an advocate for changing the system.

ROBERT ROOKS: Today, with the energy that's been built up around ending mass incarceration, with the president visiting a prison facility in Oklahoma, the energy suggests that it's a new day.

JOHNSON: That energy spans a left-right coalition that includes everyone from the ACLU to Koch Industries. Koch's general counsel, Mark Holden, explained his support at an event in Washington earlier this year.


MARK HOLDEN: If you believe in the Bill of Rights, if you believe in a limited government, you want to protect individual liberty, you have to be in this arena because this is where the greatest infringement and overreach on life, liberty, property and the pursuit of happiness is happening. And it's in our criminal justice system.

JOHNSON: On Thursday, a bipartisan group of senators will release their long awaited justice proposal. Sources tell NPR the plan will include a pathway for well-behaved inmates to earn credit to leave prison early, an idea favored by leading Republicans and a way that gives judges more discretion to lower the sentences of new criminal offenders, an approach supported by several Democrats. The Obama Justice Department has been pushing that idea in part because paying for federal prisons now eats up about a third of the budget. Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates...

SALLY YATES: These costs are swallowing up funds that would otherwise be available for state and local law enforcement, for victims of crime and for prevention and reentry programs.

JOHNSON: How much money the new plan could save and how many prisoners the changes will touch are still unclear, as is the fate of the legislation in a Congress about to be consumed by the presidential election. Carrie Johnson, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Carrie Johnson is a justice correspondent for the Washington Desk.