Today over 1,100 faith leaders from across the religious spectrum — Roman Catholics, Jews, Evangelical Protestants and Mainline Protestants — signed on to a letter to Congress, urging them to reduce the US prison population by passing the Smarter Sentencing Act:

Nearly 30 years ago, Congress passed legislation creating excessive mandatory-minimum penalties for many low-level and non-violent drug offenses. The result was a dramatic increase in the federal prison population that is both expensive and counterproductive. Today over 217,000 men and women are warehoused in over-crowded federal institutions, families are split apart, lives have been wasted, and drug abuse and addiction continues to plague our communities.

A national conversation has begun to address the nationwide incarceration crisis and change in state sentencing policy has resulted. In the last decade, 17 states around the country reduced their incarceration rates and saw continued declines in crime rates. It is now time for Congress to act.

You can read the entire letter and see the full list of signatories here.

As the group notes,  some 50% of all federal incarcerations are for drug-related crimes — less than 8% are in jail for violent crimes.

The Smarter Sentencing Act recently passed the Senate Judiciary Committee. The groups are encouraging Harry Reid to bring it to the floor of the Senate for a vote.

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