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Event Summary

Thursday at AEI, Senate Committee on the Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) addressed the bipartisan Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015 he cosponsored with Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and several other lawmakers, which aims to cut mandatory minimums, grant judges greater sentencing discretion, and help prisoners successfully return to society. In his remarks, Chairman Grassley addressed the need for bipartisan sentencing reform, stating, “We all recognize the many concerns that have been raised today regarding our current sentencing structure, particularly for nonviolent drug offenders. Long prison sentences always come with a cost — a cost to the taxpayers, a cost to families, and to our communities.”

Chairman Grassley is waiting for the Trump administration’s input regarding reintroducing the act in this Congress. Despite “support and opposition” in the White House surrounding these issues, he noted that “passing a sentencing bill remains a top leg priority for me as chairman” and that he was “confident about its prospects.”

Following Chairman Grassley’s remarks, Vera Institute’s Hayne Yoon, Living Classroom Foundation’s John Huffington, and the American Conservative Union Center for Criminal Justice Reform’s Pat Nolan discussed how to prepare prisoners for life after prison, reduce recidivism, provide opportunities for returned citizens, and reform the criminal justice system to create safer communities and more stable families. The panelists also addressed improving prison conditions for women, introducing prosecutorial discretion in sentencing, and funding and operating correctional education programs.
-Elizabeth English

Event Description

Today, there are approximately 2.2 million individuals behind bars in the United States. The most recent estimates indicate that once released, more than two-thirds will recidivate within three years. Policymakers in recent years have pushed for sweeping criminal justice reforms to reduce mandatory minimum sentencing, lower recidivism rates, and provide greater opportunities for those returning home from prison.

Please join AEI for a keynote address by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, followed by a panel of experts to discuss criminal justice reform proposals and ideas on providing pathways of opportunities for those reentering society.  

Join the conversation on social media with #GrassleyatAEI


8:15 AM

8:30 AM
Gerard Robinson, AEI

Chuck Grassley, Chairman of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary (R-IA)

8:45 AM

Chuck Grassley, Chairman of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary (R-IA)
Gerard Robinson, AEI

8:55 AM

9:00 AM
Panel discussion
Hayne Yoon, Vera Institute of Justice
John Huffington, Living Classrooms Foundation
Pat Nolan, American Conservative Union Center for Criminal Justice Reform

Gerard Robinson, AEI

10:00 AM

Event Contact Information

For more information, please contact Elizabeth English at [email protected], 202-862-5822.

Media Contact Information

For media inquiries, please contact [email protected], 202.862.5829

Speaker Biographies

Chuck Grassley serves as chairman of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary and is a member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry; Senate Committee on the Budget; Senate Committee on Finance; and the Joint Tax Committee. He also previously served as chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance. He is also chairman of the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control and is a member of the Senate Caucus on Foster Youth. Sen. Grassley served in the Iowa legislature and the US House of Representatives before winning election to the Senate for the first time in 1980. Before his time in public service, he was a farmer, sheet meal sheerer, and assembly line worker.

John Huffington is the director of the Living Classrooms Foundation’s Target Investment Zone Workforce Development Program in Baltimore, Maryland. Previously, he spent 32 years in the Maryland prison system, 10 of which were on death row. Maintaining his innocence for the crimes for which he was convicted, he was ultimately released from prison in 2013 through a writ of actual innocence. In addition to his role at Living Classrooms, Mr. Huffington is a member of the Greater Baltimore Committee’s Coalition for a Second Chance, the Green Network Leadership Team, the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention Collateral Consequences Workgroup, and the Baltimore Police Department’s Community Collaborative Division Reentry Advisory Committee.

Pat Nolan is the director of the American Conservative Union Foundation’s Center for Criminal Justice Reform. He moderated a prominent panel on prison reform at the 2014 Conservative Political Action Conference and is a leader of Right on Crime, a national movement of conservative leaders supporting reforms to the US criminal justice system. Previously, he served for 15 years in the California State Assembly, including four as the assembly Republican leader, and was awarded the Victim Advocate Award by Parents of Murdered Children. After he was targeted for prosecution for accepting a campaign contribution that was part of an FBI sting operation, he pleaded guilty to one count of racketeering and served 29 months in federal custody. Mr. Nolan is the author of “When Prisoners Return: Why We Should Care and How You and Your Church Can Help” (Xulon, 2004). He is a frequent expert witness at congressional hearings and has lectured at many judicial conferences and legal conventions. He has coauthored articles for the Regent University Law Review and the Notre Dame Law School Journal of Law, Ethics and Public Policy. Mr. Nolan was appointed to the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission, a bipartisan panel charged with reducing inmate sexual assault. He also served on the Vera Institute’s Commission on Safety and Abuse in America’s Prisons. He earned both his bachelor of arts in political science and his juris doctorate at the University of Southern California.

Gerard Robinson is a resident fellow at AEI, where he works on education policy issues including choice in public and private schools, regulatory development and implementation of K–12 laws, the role of for-profit institutions in education, prison education and reentry, rural education, and the role of community colleges and historically black colleges and universities in adult advancement. Before joining AEI, Mr. Robinson served as commissioner of education for the State of Florida and secretary of education for the Commonwealth of Virginia. As president of the Black Alliance for Educational Options, he worked to ensure that children in low-income and working-class black families in several states and the District of Columbia were given the opportunity to attend good schools. Throughout his career, he has evaluated the effects of reform initiatives on parental choice and student achievement, advocated for laws to improve delivery of teaching and learning, and published essays on how to make good policy to give all children a chance at a good job and future. A proponent of the importance of education to civil society, Mr. Robinson has spoken before audiences in the United States, China, and the United Kingdom. He started his career by teaching fifth grade in a private, inner-city school. He is a member of many education-related boards. His issue brief for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools was cited in an amicus brief presented before the Supreme Court of Georgia in 2013. He has a master’s of education degree from Harvard University, a bachelor of arts degree in philosophy from Howard University, and an associate of arts degree from El Camino College.

Hayne Yoon is the director of government affairs at the Vera Institute for Justice, where she works with the president, senior leadership, and colleagues to lead Vera’s national policy work in Washington, DC. Before joining Vera in 2015, she served as counsel to Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), advising on judiciary and education issues. She previously was detailed by the Federal Public Defender’s office to the US Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Human Rights, where she advised Chairman and Assistant Majority Leader Richard Durbin (D-IL) on issues of juvenile justice and judicial ethics. Before working on Capitol Hill, Ms. Yoon spent nearly 10 years in Los Angeles, first as a deputy public defender and later as a deputy federal public defender. She holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of Chicago and a J.D. from the New York University School of Law.

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