- Criminal justice reform is a bipartisan/bicameral effort.
- The federal prison population is growing at an unsustainable rate and is nearly 40 percent over capacity. Populations have grown from 24,000 federal prisoners in 1980, to 219, 000 in 2013.
- The Bureau of Prisons budget has grown right along with the prison population. It takes up 25 percent of the Department of Justice’s budget and is expected to swell to 33 percent by 2020.
- It is estimated that 90 percent of federal prisoners will one day be released. In order to reduce the rate of recidivism, state programs with a known track record of success should beimplemented on a federal level.
- Lawmakers were encouraged by industry experts to visit federal prisons. Experts insisted that minimal programs and activities are available to federal prisoners, calling their time in prison, “mind wasting boredom.”
- To share lessons on criminal justice reform from states that have successfully implemented new policies.
- To hear from a diverse panel of experts regarding emerging areas of reform at both the state and federal levels, including existing and forthcoming bills before the House and Senate.
- To broaden the conversation on criminal justice reform.
- Criminal justice reform efforts typically fall into one of three categories, each of which will be discussed in the hearings:
- “Front end” measures address how people end up in prison in the first place and the length of sentences they will receive. Reform of mandatory minimums, for example, attempts to reduce prison populations and recidivism by allowing judges to impose shorter sentences on nonviolent offenders.
- “Behind the wall” reforms attempt to change the operations of the prisons themselves.
- “Back end” changes focus on the circumstances of release from prison, including serving portions of sentences in an alternative custody arrangement and rehabilitation programs.
Rep. Hice: “I think most of our prisons see people—once they’re released—back in prison within two years.”
Rep. Walberg: “The Fair Act hasn’t worked the way it should—it has become a tool for abuse as well.”
Rep. Russell: “What we potentially see is the locking up of innocent people. How do we address that?”
Witnesses and testimonies:The Honorable John Cornyn
Wisconsin, 5th District
Louisiana, 2nd District
Virginia, 3rd District