Cornyn, Whitehouse Introduce Bipartisan Prison Reform Bill
by John Cornyn on October 23, 2017 at 12:45 PM
U.S. Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and I recently introduced the Corrections Oversight, Recidivism Reduction, and Eliminating Costs for Taxpayers In Our National System (CORRECTIONS) Act, which is based on successful criminal justice reforms from states like Texas and Rhode Island that have lowered recidivism rates, reduced crime, and saved taxpayer dollars. Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) is an original cosponsor of the legislation.
Texas has successfully implemented reforms that have reduced recidivism rates and saved taxpayer dollars. The CORRECTIONS Act builds off this model by fostering partnerships with faith- and community-based organizations to help better prepare low-risk offenders to become productive members of society. I hope the Senate can follow Texas’ lead and implement these commonsense, bipartisan reforms.
“Rhode Island succeeded in helping more inmates get help, gain skills, and stay out of prison after their release. That’s led to big gains for former inmates, our prison system, and the communities where prisoners return. Senator Cornyn’s and my bipartisan legislation would use smart reforms from states like ours to improve the federal prison system,” said Sen. Whitehouse, a former U.S. Attorney and Attorney General for Rhode Island. “Our bill has been an important part of bipartisan comprehensive criminal justice reform legislation in the Senate in recent years. I hope it will trigger further good-faith negotiation on sentencing and prison reform solutions.”
- Risk Assessment: The bill requires the Department of Justice to develop risk assessment tools that will assess the recidivism risk of all eligible offenders.
- Reducing Prison Spending: The bill focuses limited Bureau of Prison resources on those most likely to commit future crimes and shifts lower-risk inmates to less restrictive conditions, reducing prison costs and freeing up resources for law enforcement.
- Expanded Recidivism-Reduction Programming: The bill requires the Bureau of Prisons to provide evidence-based recidivism reduction programming to all eligible offenders.
- Partnerships with Faith-Based and Community-Based Organizations: To promote efficient and effective recidivism reduction programming, the Bureau of Prisons must partner with private organizations, including non-profits, to enhance existing efforts.
- Credit toward Prerelease Custody: To incentivize inmates to reduce their risk profile, the bill allows eligible inmates who successfully complete recidivism reduction programs to earn credit toward time in pre-release custody, but excludes serious violent criminals.
- Improving Prisoner Reentry: The bill requires the federal probation office to begin planning for eligible offenders’ reentry at the beginning of the inmate’s sentence and requires the Justice Department to implement reentry pilot projects across the country.
- Correctional Officer Self-Protection Provision: The bill requires the warden of every federal prison facility to provide a secure storage facility for guards to secure firearms.
- National Criminal Justice Commission: The bill creates a national commission to review every aspect of the nation’s criminal justice system, which was last done in 1965.
Endorsements and Support:
The CORRECTIONS Act of 2017 is endorsed and supported by a wide array of interest groups and organizations, including Prison Fellowship, Faith & Freedom Coalition, the Alliance for Jewish Renewal, International Community Corrections Association, American Federation of Government Employees (Prison Guards Union), the National Criminal Justice Association, Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, the National District Attorneys Association, the Major County Sheriffs of America, Major City Chiefs Police Association, International Chiefs of Police, Americans for Tax Reform, American Conservative Union, and Right on Crime.