Congressman Steve Cohen

Representing the 9th District of Tennessee

Criminal Justice Reform

As the Chairman on the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice, Congressman Cohen is working to protect civil rights as well as reform the criminal justice system to make it more fair. 
 
The Congressman is also working to support  ex-offenders as they reenter society and become productive members of society.  He introduced the Fresh Start Act to give nonviolent ex-offenders a chance to start over again. It allows them to apply for expungement to the court where they were sentenced and allows the United States Attorney for that District to submit recommendations to the court. Applicants who are denied could reapply once every two years. Once seven years have elapsed since an offender has completed his or her sentence, expungement will be automatically granted. However, sex offenders and those who commit crimes causing a loss of over $25,000 will not be eligible for automatic expungement.  The bill also encourages states to pass their own expungement laws for state offenses. States that pass a substantially similar law would receive a 5 percent increase in their Byrne funding while those that do not would lose 5 percent of their Byrne funds.  Congressman Cohen has also cosponsored the Second Chance Reauthorization Act. This bill reauthorizes funding for programs to help inmates become productive and law abiding citizens after they are released.  Programs include education, housing, job training, drug treatment and medical care. 
 
The Congressman has also cosponsored the Fair Chance Act.  This “ban the box” bill prohibits federal agencies and contractors from requesting that applicants for employment disclose certain criminal activity in their history records before receiving a conditional offer. 

He has also cosponsored the No Money Bail Act to eliminate the payment of money as a condition of pretrial release of criminal defendants. 

Congressman Cohen voted for the First STEP Act. Signed into law in 2018, the measure gives judges more latitude to work around mandatory sentences where appropriate, and allows offenders who were sentenced before Congress reduced the disparity between penalties for crack and powder cocaine in 2010 to petition to have their cases re-evaluated for possible sentence reductions.  It also enables certain prisoners to participate in evidence-based recidivism reduction programs to earn credits to complete the last portion of their sentence in a residential reentry center or home confinement, and encourages the placement of offenders at prisons closer to their homes where possible. The law also prohibits the shackling of pregnant women. 
 
The Congressman has also introduced several bills to improve police practices including the Police Training and Independent Review Act, which he introduced with Congressman Lacy Clay (D-MO) of Ferguson, Missouri, and Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL).  The legislation creates an incentive for states to require independent investigation and prosecution of incidents in which police use of deadly force results in a death or injury.  It also requires sensitivity training on ethnic and racial bias, cultural diversity, and interactions with the disabled, mentally ill, and new immigrants.  The bill is supported by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). 
 
Congressman Cohen has also introduced the National Statistics on Deadly Force Transparency Act to require states, as a condition of receipt of full Byrne Justice Assistance Grant funding, to collect data in all instances in which deadly force was used and report it to the Department of Justice, and the Police Creating Accountability in Making Effective Recording Available (CAMERA) Act to establish a grant program to assist state and local law enforcement with the purchase of body cameras to be worn by police officers.  
 
Congressman Cohen has also cosponsored the End Racial Profiling Act to prohibit law enforcement from engaging in racial profiling, grant victims of racial profiling the right to file suit, authorize grants to collect data relating to racial profiling, and require state and local law enforcement to certify that they have eliminated any practices that permit or encourage racial profilingThe bipartisan Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act places restrictions and transparency measures on the Defense Department’s program that transfers excess military equipment to local law enforcement and prevents transfers of equipment such as grenade launchers, weaponized drones and armored military vehicles that are inappropriate for local policing. 

More on Criminal Justice Reform

July 16, 2019 Press Release

WASHINGTON – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09), a member of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the Helsinki Commission, provided opening remarks at a hearing on “Responding to Hate Crimes: The Role of Religious Actors.”  

In the hearing, Congressman Cohen said: 

“We all need to take religion and use it for good and find common purposes, common values, and not use it to divide us.” 

Find the Congressman’s full remarks here.

July 16, 2019 Press Release

WASHINGTON – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09), a member of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security, today questioned witnesses at a hearing on “Women and Girls in the Criminal Justice System.” 

During the question-and-answer session, Congressman Cohen asked Jesselyn McCurdy, Deputy Director of the American Civil Liberties Union Washington Legislative Office, about private prisons and their impact.  

July 10, 2019 Press Release

WASHINGTON – Congressman Steve Cohen, a senior member of the House Judiciary Committee and a member of its Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security, today questioned expert witnesses on marijuana policy at a hearing on “Marijuana Laws in America: Racial Justice and the Need for Reform.”  

June 26, 2019 Press Release

 

WASHINGTON – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09), Chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, today sent a letter to President Trump recommending he commute the sentences of non-violent drug offenders. See the letter here.

Trump last year commuted the sentence of Congressman Cohen’s constituent, Alice Marie Johnson, who was serving a life sentence for a non-violent drug offense, at the suggestion of reality television celebrity Kim Kardashian.

June 12, 2019 Press Release

 

WASHINGTON – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09), a senior member of the House Judiciary Committee, today voted to move H.R. 35, the Emmett Till Antilynching Act, to the House floor. The measure, named for a 14-year-old Chicago youth named Emmett Till, who was lynched outside Money, Mississippi, in 1955, would make lynching a federal hate crime. Congressman Cohen spoke in favor of the measure before the voice vote. See those remarks here.

Congressman Cohen made the following statement:

April 4, 2019 Press Release

WASHINGTON – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09), a senior member of the House Judiciary Committee, today voted for, and the House passed, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act (VAWA), which preserves and improves protections for victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking. The vote was 263 to 158.

Congressman Cohen made the following statement:

March 27, 2019 Press Release

WASHINGTON – Congressman Steve Cohen (D-TN) and Steve Chabot (R-Ohio) today introduced the DUI Reporting Act to address the loophole in our nation’s drunken-driving laws that enables repeat DUI offenders to be charged and tried as first-time offenders because of inconsistent reporting.

The bill has been endorsed by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and has in the past received overwhelming bipartisan support.

January 23, 2019 Press Release

WASHINGTON – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09) was named Chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties today by the House Judiciary Committee.

Congressman Cohen made the following statement:

January 7, 2019 Press Release

WASHINGTON – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09) today welcomed Governor Bill Haslam’s grant of clemency in the case of Cyntoia Brown, a juvenile victim of sex trafficking, who has been serving a life sentence for murder. Congressman Cohen wrote to Governor Haslam on December 10 asking him to give consideration to clemency in the case given the unique circumstances. See that letter here.

Congressman Cohen also made the following statement: