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Nat Strobel would have died had he not been incarcerated. By the time he was 21, he was a drug dealer, gang member, and a helpless addict.
But Nat changed during his federal prison sentence. He found God and miraculously walked away from gang life. With a new outlook on life, Nat threw himself into the various programs offered at his correctional facility.
"A large part of who I am today is attributed to the available programs I took while I was incarcerated," he says. Programs that allowed him to earn his GED, enroll in college, and help other prisoners who needed vocational training. Today, Nat is on staff with Prison Fellowship®, continuing to help prisoners and former prisoners transform their lives.
"I can only imagine where I would be today if my choice of programs were much larger than they were."
"A large part of who I am today is attributed to the available programs I took while I was incarcerated."
THE IMPORTANCE OF PRISON PROGRAMMING
Nat stuck with his choice to become a better man and citizen because of the programming available at his federal prison. Sadly, many federal prisoners today have little access or equal opportunities to such transformative programming.
There are more than 180,00 people in federal prison in America. Around 40,000 will be released just this year. Without programs such as substance-abuse treatment, literacy classes, or job-readiness training, these men and women are less likely to thrive as productive, law-abiding members of society.
When former prisoners aren't prepared to succeed, they often go back to the lives they had before. Ultimately, public safety suffers.
THE PRISON REFORM AND REDEMPTION ACT
But there's good news—the House of Representatives is currently reviewing legislation that would create a more constructive prison culture that allows prisoners to truly rehabilitate.
Known as the Prison Reform and Redemption Act, this legislation has bipartisan support. If passed, it will affect hundreds of thousands of federal prisoners, plus their families, communities, and our nation.
The purpose of the act is to provide federal prisons with programming that will not only benefit the lives of prisoners but also reduce our nation's recidivism rate and improve public safety. To do this, the act has three major goals: (1) to expand prison programs and earned time credit opportunities; (2) to develop a post-sentencing risk and needs assessment system; and (3) to provide prisoners with incentives for program completion.
MORE PRISON PROGRAMS AND EARNED TIME CREDIT OPPORTUNITIES
The Bureau of Prisons will be required to increase and improve prison programing and productive activities. These will include opportunities for drug rehabilitation, education and skills training, and faith-based classes in partnership with non-profit and faith-based organization.
Any program proven to reduce recidivism will also be given earned time credit opportunities. Earned time policies send a message to prisoners that making amends and earning back the public's trust are expected during their punishment.
POST-SENTENCING RISK AND NEEDS ASSESSMENT
The Department of Justice will need to develop and implement and risk and needs assessment system that will allow the most effective programming to be available to each individual. Under this system, prisoners will be periodically reassessed to ensure they are progressing.
INCENTIVES FOR PROGRAM COMPLETION
All prisoners who complete programs will be granted increased phone and visitation privileges. Continued relationships with loved ones on the outside have proven to lower prisoners’ chances for recidivism.
In addition, lower-risk prisoners will be eligible to serve the final days of their sentences at halfway houses or under home confinement. This will provide them with a smoother and safer transition back into their communities. It will also decrease the overcrowding of federal prisons over time.