Black caucus chairman, conservative leader team up for justice reform

Rep. Mark Walker, a conservative Republican, wants the GOP-controlled Congress to move on long-stalled efforts to revamp the nation’s criminal justice system next year — and he’s enlisted a seemingly unlikely ally: The head of the Congressional Black Caucus.

Walker, R-N.C., chairman of the conservative House Republican Study Committee, is teaming with Chairman Cedric Richmond, D-La.

Walker leads the largest group of conservatives in the House of Representatives, 157 Republicans, including 17 House committee chairs.

Richmond steers a group of 49 African-American lawmakers — 48 Democrats, one Republican (Mia Love of Utah) and two Democratic senators.

Richmond and Walker agree the current criminal justice system negatively impacts families, particularly in communities of color, costs the federal government too much money, and does little to reduce the rate of recidivism. The United States accounts for only 5 percent of the world’s population but 25 percent of its prison population.

“We want something that can really impact the legislative system like we haven’t seen in many years,” Walker told McClatchy. “We felt that if the chairmen of the Congressional Black Caucus and the Republican Study Committee can come together on something, it may create enough attention to say ‘Okay, maybe this is bigger than the political lingo that you hear out of D.C. every week.’”

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