WASHINGTON -- House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said on Thursday that there were many people in prison "that really don't need to be there," telling reporters that he wants bipartisan legislation proposing criminal justice system reform to come to the House floor.
"I've long believed that there needed to be reform of our criminal justice system," Boehner said. "Some of these people are in there under what I'll call flimsy reasons."
Boehner made the remarks while stating his support for the SAFE Justice Act, legislation introduced by Reps. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) and Bobby Scott (D-Va.) last month that would implement a wide range of criminal justice reforms, including narrowing the use of mandatory sentences for some nonviolent drug offenders.
Among other measures, the bill would favor alternative sentences "in limited circumstances, in which the defendant is a first-time, low-level, nonviolent offender who is capable of being supervised by probation and has not been convicted of a crime of violence," or other serious offenses. The bill is currently sitting in the House Judiciary Committee.
Boehner's support is encouraging, both Sensenbrenner and Scott told The Huffington Post.
“Chairman Sensenbrenner and I have been working for months to put together a bill that includes bipartisan, evidence-based, state-tested solutions to reduce crime and save money," Scott said in a statement. "I am encouraged by Speaker Boehner’s endorsement of the SAFE Justice Act and hope that his support will help us continue to build bipartisan momentum to make these changes law.”
There's also bipartisan support for criminal justice reform in the Senate, where the Senate Judiciary Committee is close to unveiling its own legislation, Politico reported on Wednesday.
Boehner's endorsement came on the same day that President Barack Obama became the first sitting president to visit a federal prison facility while calling for criminal justice reform.