I support effective crime prevention measures to keep our families and communities safe. Those accused of crimes must be treated fairly, and those who are guilty must be punished appropriately and justly. As an advocate for equality under the law and fair administration of justice, I work with other Members of Congress to develop responses to the challenges in the criminal justice system.
Mandatory minimum prison sentences interfere with judicial authority and impose “one size fits all” penalties without considering specific circumstances. In addition, mandatory minimum sentences – especially those related to drug possession – and laws that impose more severe penalties for crack cocaine than powder cocaine have resulted in the incarceration of a disproportionate amount of African Americans.
While serving in Congress, I have introduced various measures to address problems related to mandatory minimum sentencing. Most recently, I introduced the Major Drug Traffickers Prosecution Act of 2009 (H.R. 1466). This bill would restore judicial discretion, end mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses, and re-focus scarce federal resources to prosecute major drug kingpins.
In other areas of criminal law, I have advocated against juvenile life sentences and the death penalty. Studies have shown significant discrimination in the application of the death penalty, including one that revealed defendants convicted of killing a White person were more than 3 times more likely to be sentenced to death than those who killed a Black person and over 4 times more likely than those who killed a Latino. Furthermore, doubt surrounding the innocence of some people sentenced to death has prompted some states to recognize the need to either prohibit executions or impose a temporary moratorium on the death penalty.
I am also concerned about abusive and unconstitutional practices by some law enforcement officers. The men and women who police our streets and protect our neighborhoods have important responsibilities and face real dangers. However, they must be held to high standards of professionalism based on codified criminal procedures and policing practices. They should not be given sweeping power to momentarily strip individuals of their Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights – the amendments that govern criminal procedure, restricting and limiting certain government actions.
As a member of the House Judiciary Committee and Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security, I will continue my work to ensure the civil rights and liberties of all people are protected.
More on Criminal Justice
Rep. Waters Statement on the Passage of the First Step Act
Applauds Progress of Efforts to End Mandatory Minimum Sentencing
WASHINGTON – Congresswoman Maxine Waters (CA-43) issued a statement on the First Step Act of 2018, which passed both the House and the Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support and is now the law of the land.
Rep. Waters Announces FY2018 Appropriations Letters & Omnibus Accomplishments
WASHINGTON – Congresswoman Maxine Waters (CA-43), Ranking Member of the House Financial Services Committee, released the following statement on the passage of the Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 Omnibus Appropriations Act, which provides substantial federal funding increases to many of her legislative priorities through September 30, 2018, the end of the current fiscal year:
Congresswoman Waters Reintroduces the Stop AIDS in Prison Act
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congresswoman Maxine Waters (CA-43), Ranking Member of the House Financial Services Committee and a Congressional leader in the fight against HIV/AIDS, reintroduced the Stop AIDS in Prison Act today (H.R. 1882). This bill requires the Federal Bureau of Prisons to develop a comprehensive policy to provide HIV/AIDS prevention, testing, and treatment for inmates in federal prisons. The bill has 33 original cosponsors.
Congresswoman Waters Urges the U.S. Senate to Reject Jeff Sessions’ AG Nomination
January 5, 2017
Washington, D.C. – Congresswoman Maxine Waters (CA-43), Ranking Member of the Financial Services Committee, released the following statement upon the first anniversary of the Mother Emanuel AME Church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina:
In February, federal prosecutors began a 90-day examination to determine whether to bring cases against individuals for their role in the 2008 financial crisis.
Congresswoman Waters Congratulates the City of Gardena on $375,000 COPS Hiring Program Award
October 8, 2014
Congresswoman Waters Marks the 20th Anniversary of the Passage of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)
Congresswoman Maxine Waters (CA-43) released the following statement today in light of a video showing a California Highway Patrol officer repeatedly punching a woman in the face on the 10 Freeway:
The panel, moderated by Waters, represented a diversity of viewpoints on the ethics and effectiveness of National Security Administration spying at home and abroad.