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Ryan Cites Need For ‘Redemption’ In Renewed Push For Criminal Justice Reform

House Speaker Acknowledges Past Mistakes Backing Tough War On Drugs Policies

Gage Skidmore (CC-BY-SA)

House Speaker Paul Ryan says it’s time for Congress to make redemption, rather than punishment, the centerpiece of the country’s criminal justice policy. He’s backing legislation he says will help fix the problems created by the war on drugs.

In a speech on Capitol Hill this week, the Wisconsin Republican said that in the 1990s, he and other policymakers over compensated in their tough-on-crime approach to fighting the war on drugs. He said harsh sentencing laws have destroyed the lives of many nonviolent offenders and their communities, and that it’s time for a change.

“We need to make redemption something that is valued in our culture and our society and in our laws, so that when a young man comes out of prison who did something where he really needed addiction counseling, he needed some other kind of mentoring — maybe faith — that he can actually go back and be a productive member of society,” said Ryan.

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The bills Ryan is backing now would reduce sentences for nonviolent crimes and boost funding for re-entry services to help offenders find housing and work after they’re released from prison.

“We’re going to bring criminal justice reform bills which are now out of the Judiciary Committee and advance this,” Ryan said. “Because what we’re learning is, and what I learned — I didn’t necessarily know this before — is, you know, redemption’s a beautiful thing.”

Ryan has said in the past that he hope to bring the criminal justice reform measure to the House floor for a vote sometime this year.