Dec 19 2016

During his first two years in the U.S. Senate, Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) has been a leading advocate for bipartisan criminal justice reform, a continuation of his successful efforts to implement reforms at the state level during his tenure as North Carolina House Speaker.
During the Washington Post’s Juvenile Justice Summit earlier this month, Senator Tillis has made it clear that pursuing criminal justice reforms would be one of his top priorities in the upcoming 115th Congress, stating: “This is a critically important issue and solvable problem. We need people to step up and understand the political courage to say it is time to solve this problem.”
Watch Senator Tillis explain why we need laws that are tough on crime and smart on rehabilitation:
Tillis is a co-sponsor and outspoken supporter of the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act.
“This is not a bill about letting murderers go or making our society less safe. It’s a bill that could potentially get someone released sooner so that they would be less likely to commit a crime, save money in the judicial system, and make that transformational opportunity happen for a number of people…It is time to tell the far-left and the far-right to get productive or get out of the way, because we need to solve this problem.” – Senator Thom Tillis, 12/1/16
The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act recalibrates prison sentences for certain non-violent drug offenders while also targeting violent criminals and adding two new mandatory minimum sentences. The legislation also seeks to reduce recidivism through education, job training, drug rehabilitation, and faith-based programs, and creates a process to seal and expunge juvenile records for nonviolent offenses. Senator Tillis secured an additional layer of accountability in the bill that requires the Department of Justice to conduct a particularized inquiry of the facts and circumstances of each defendant considered for a reduced sentence.
Senator Tillis has repeatedly called out both the far-right and far-left for attempting to block the landmark bipartisan bill, recently telling an audience at the Washington Post’s Juvenile Justice Summit: “People bring up Willie Horton or some other political bombshell in the past, but what they’re not being intellectually honest about is if we do not work on early release, if we do not rehabilitate 95 percent of the people who go into the prison system and come out, far more innocent people are going to be harmed. I’m not going to play that political game. The stakes are too high.”
“Tillis, R-N.C., has sought to make revamping the nation’s criminal justice system one of his signature issues since arriving in Washington in 2015…” (McClatchy, 11/30/16)
“Sen. Thom Tillis warned Wednesday that he could retire instead of running for reelection if Congress isn't able to pass bipartisan measures like a wide-ranging criminal justice bill. ‘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 during a juvenile justice forum.” (The Hill, 11/30/16)
Tillis previously led the effort to pass comprehensive criminal justice reform in North Carolina, which has proven to be a major success.
In 2011, as North Carolina Speaker of the House, Tillis spearheaded the passage of the Justice Reinvestment Act, sweeping criminal justice reform legislation. The law has resulted in a reduction in North Carolina’s prison population and a significant, double-digit decrease in the recidivism rate. The N.C. Department of Public Safety estimates that the law has also saved hundreds of millions of dollars over the last several years.
Then-Speaker Tillis also presided over the passage of several juvenile justice reforms, including allowing a juvenile’s criminal record to be expunged of non-violent offenses and limiting detention for certain offenses.
“If that sounds familiar, it’s because North Carolina embarked on that road in 2011 with measurable success. It was probably the biggest bipartisan piece of legislation under now-U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis’ watch when he was speaker of the state House.” (Raleigh News & Observer, 10/22/15)
“Tillis pointed out that he worked on criminal justice overhaul legislation while he was speaker of the North Carolina House. He worked to pass the Justice Reinvestment Act, which altered the state’s sentencing laws, as well as other measures relating to juvenile justice. ‘Everybody told me when I did this that I would be cooked. That there was no way I could run for statewide office,’ Tillis said. ‘Here I am.’” (Roll Call, 12/1/16)
“Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) says he's familiar with the process of selling criminal justice reform to a skeptical audience. Tillis was speaker of the North Carolina House when the legislature passed the Justice Reinvestment Act, which made back-end reforms to reduce recidivism. ‘I know that a lot of people get concerned with it,’ Tillis said. ‘It’s not really a soft on crime bill. It is the typical arguments that get used for these sorts of things, but I think the more that we educate people, the broader base of support we will get for it.’” (Talking Points Memo, 12/2/16)