Hakeem Jeffries Bipartisan Prison Reform Bill Gets Support from WH But Not Progressive Groups
Congressman Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY)crossed the aisle to introduce the Prison Reform and Redemption Act with Congressman Doug Collins (R-GA). The bill would increase prison programming, expand compassionate release and provide incentives for individuals in federal prison to transform their lives. It authorizes $50 million to be appropriated each year from 2018 to 2022 for the Bureau of Prisons to offer education, work training, and other programming, but opponents say that’s not enough. It also lists 48 different categories of crimes that make prisoners ineligible to earn time in pre-release custody for taking these programs, a provision groups backing broader reforms say excludes too many prisoners who are at a high risk of reoffending and need prison programming the most. Jeffries and Collins are joined by 16 members of Congress from both parties, who are among the most knowledgeable and respected when it comes to legislating issues concerning our criminal justice and prison systems. The bill even has support from the White House. However, The Leadership Conference for Civil Rights, ACLU and NAACP are among the groups saying that legislation that fails to reduce mandatory minimum sentences isn’t worth their support. Jeffries said a committee debate on prison reform is “possible” but called the bill a “work in progress” and said negotiators are still exchanging legislative language. "We still have a long way to go to get it to the point where it could get substantial Democratic support,” Jeffries said. Some outstanding issues include ensuring medium- to high-risk offenders can take part in the training programs, the treatment of female prisoners and the “good time” credits that would allow a prisoner to serve part of a sentence in a halfway house or similar setting. “If it’s going to move without sentencing reform, it’s got to be meaningful. If it’s not meaningful, what are we doing here?” Jeffries said, noting there is a good chance Democrats may win back the House and have more control over the legislation next year. Jeffries said he worries about the motives AG Jeff Sessions and his hardline stance on criminal justice reform. More here.