criminal justice

Trump Suggests Courts Mulling His Travel Ban are ‘Biased’
President suggests law means he ‘can do whatever’ he wants on national security

President Donald Trump said he “heard things I cannot believe” while listening to oral arguments over his executive order barring immigrants from some countries from entering the country. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump on Wednesday went directly after the appellate court judges mulling whether to revive his controversial order banning immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States.

In a remarkable scene, the new president used words like “biased” and “political” to describe any court that disagrees with the executive order he signed on Jan. 29. His sharpest comments were directed right at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit judges who expressed deep skepticism of the order on Tuesday night.

Porn, Weed and Other Takeaways From Sessions Hearing
AG hopeful could flip DOJ positions on obscenity and online gambling.

Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on his nomination for attorney general on Tuesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Sen. Jeff Sessions revealed several policy changes he might bring to the Justice Department during his confirmation hearing this week to be attorney general in the Trump administration.

The main focus was the Alabama Republican defending his record from criticism by Democratic lawmakers and civil rights groups, who question his independence and whether he will enforce voting rights and other laws important to minorities and women. But moments that didn’t grab headlines give new insight into Sessions’ legal thinking on some issues and what he’ll do if he is confirmed.

Tillis Might Not be Back After 2020 if Things Don’t Get Done
North Carolina senator wants progress on criminal justice reform, other issues

North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis says he worked on criminal justice overhaul legislation when he was speaker of the North Carolina House. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Sen. Thom Tillis said Wednesday that if Congress cannot tackle a criminal justice overhaul and other big-ticket issues with bipartisan solutions in the next few years, he might not run for re-election.

“I don’t run again until 2020, and if we’re not able to get things like this done, I don’t have any intention of coming back,” the North Carolina Republican said at The Washington Post Juvenile Justice Summit.

Overcrowded Prisons and Overdue Criminal Justice Reform
Congress missed an opportunity to follow public sentiment

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, center, signs the occupational licensing bill in August, as Lisa Creason, fourth from left, an advocate for the legislation, looks on. (Courtesy Illinois Government News Network)

A criminal justice overhaul was on everyone’s radar for congressional action this fall but, like many priorities, it appears to have fallen by the wayside. The argument for commonsense reform, however, continues to grow stronger — and the repercussions of inaction are evident on the federal and state levels.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics’ most recent numbers show 19 prison systems, including the Federal Bureau of Prisons, exceeding maximum capacities for inmates. In recent years, my home state of Illinois has been the biggest offender with prisons at almost 150 percent of maximum capacity. Ohio is the second highest with its prisons operating at 131.9 percent of capacity.

Once a Cinch, Criminal Justice Bill Just Another Campaign Promise
As Obama's tune changes, Flake says 'it’s going to have to be' delayed

Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake said criminal justice overhaul legislation likely will not pass before a new president and new Congress are installed next year. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

An overhaul of federal criminal justice laws was once considered among the most achievable of President Barack Obama's policy goals in his last year in office. Now, it's been reduced to a stump-speech applause line designed to boost turnout for Hillary Clinton on Election Day.

Hopes were high into this summer that an overhaul  bill with bipartisan support could be signed into law, leading to changes in sentencing laws and related efforts to make it easier for those with criminal records to function on the outside.

Where Things Stand as Congress Leaves Town
Key issues linger as lawmakers go on recess

Reps. Scott Rigell of Virginia, right, and Reid Ribble of Wisconsin ride their motorcycles outside the Capitol after the last votes Thursday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Congress is heading out of town for Memorial Day recess, but lawmakers still have plenty of items on their to-do lists.  

Members on both sides of the aisle have pushed for action to address issues ranging from the Zika virus to authorizing defense programs. With roughly two months worth of legislative days left in 2016, here's a look at what's going on with some of the top issues in Congress:

Cotton: Criminal Justice Bill 'Dead' in Congress
Cotton is a top opponent of a bill that would reduce criminal sentences.

Cotton opposes the sentencing bill. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. Tom Cotton declared Thursday a criminal justice overhaul bill "dead" in the Senate, despite bipartisan support from some top leaders.  

The Arkansas Republican is one of the key opponents of the Sentencing and Corrections Reform Act , which would reduce some mandatory criminal sentences and facilitate criminal re-entry into society. The bill has led to unlikely bipartisan alliances, but divisions within the Republican Party threaten its future.  

The Human Face of the Criminal Justice Overhaul
Senate event highlights the 'human cost' of mass incarceration

Durbin, left, speaks with actress Melissa Fitzgerald of "The West Wing" before the event. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

One man described how he got a life sentence for a low-level drug offense. A woman told how she received a 20-year sentence for drug crimes while the people who murdered her son spent less than eight years behind bars. An actor recalled how the boys he grew up with are now in prison or dead.  

Lawmakers, celebrities and former inmates Thursday gathered to highlight the personal side of a criminal justice overhaul, shortly before senators unveiled new changes to sentencing legislation.  

Banishing the Ghost of Willie Horton to Promote Criminal Justice Reform
Senators pushing for a reform bill enlist new supporters

Grassley has been working to get more Republican co-sponsors to the criminal justice overhaul bill. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The ghost of Willie Horton is haunting some senators considering a criminal justice overhaul, sending proponents back to the drawing board to reassure senators that reforms won't release dangerous felons.

Their proposed changes, unveiled to senators this week, have breathed new life into the bid to bring the bill to the floor.

White House Eager to Rekindle Criminal Justice Effort
Cornyn 'optimistic' but GOP fissures, floor time posing problems

President Barack Obama speaks as Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. listens during a meeting at the White House on Tuesday. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

President Barack Obama is eager to rekindle work with congressional leaders on a bipartisan bill to overhaul the country’s criminal justice laws -- but this key legacy item could falter due to a crowded legislative calendar and dissension within the GOP ranks.

The Obama administration devoted an entire day last week to reinforcing the need for reform when the president reduced the sentences of 61 prisoners being held on drug-related charges and dined with a group that had previously had their prison time reduced.