The demand for rehabilitative programming in the federal prison system far exceeds capacity. For example, the Bureau of Prisons recently reported that approximately 16,000 people are on a waitlist for basic literacy programming. This means incarcerated men and women aren’t getting sufficient reentry preparation in prison and as a result, our communities are less safe.
Additionally, the federal prison system offers drastically less opportunity for prisoners to transition to community corrections before the end of their sentence compared to most states (see this chart). This is due to multiple policies, including having very limited federal prison programs that qualify for “earned time” credit. Currently, only the Residential Drug Abuse Treatment Program enables participants to earn one-year off their sentence.
The federal prison system currently holds more than 180,000 incarcerated men and women, making it the largest prison system in the country. The Bureau of Prisons population exceeds its system capacity by 14 to 25 percent, with highest over-crowding in medium and high security facilities. Limiting the transition time for prisoners to move to community corrections before the end of their sentence exacerbates this overcrowding, making it difficult to run effective programs and to keep prison officials and prisoners safe.
Each year about 40,000 federal prisoners are released, but about half will be arrested again within three years. The revolving door of criminal justice is devastating to families and depresses economic activity in many communities. We owe it to the communities most affected by crime and incarceration to ensure that federal prisoners have the greatest possibility for rehabilitation while in prison and success upon release.
The House Prison Reform and Redemption Act (H.R.3356) and the Senate CORRECTIONS Act (S.1994).
KEY SPONSORS AND STATUS
The Prison Reform and Redemption Act is sponsored by Congressman Doug Collins (GA) and Hakeem Jeffries (NY). The Corrections Act is sponsored by Sen. John Cornyn (TX) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI).
WHAT THE LEGISLATION DOES
- Expands Prison Programs and Earned Time Credits Opportunities: The Bureau of Prisons (BOP) is required to increase and improve prison programming and productive activities, such as drug rehabilitation, education, skills training, faith-based classes, and work programs, in partnership with non-profit and faith-based organizations. Earned time credit opportunities will be expanded to include any programs proven to reduce recidivism.
- Risk Assessment: The Department of Justice must develop a Post-Sentencing Risk and Needs Assessment System and implement it in all facilities in order to assign the most effective programming to each individual. Prisoners will be periodically reassessed.
- Provides Incentives for Program Completion: Increased phone and visitation privileges are available for all prisoners who complete programs. Lower-risk prisoners are eligible to serve the final days of their sentences in halfway houses or home confinement, providing for a smoother and safer transition back into their communities and lessening the overcrowding in federal prisons over time.
- While the above general purposes of the legislation are the same, there are some specific differences between the House’s Recidivism Reduction and Redemption Act and the Senate CORRECTIONS Act. See this comparison chart.
HOW IT ADVANCES OUR VALUES
Prison Fellowship believes each person impacted by crime and incarceration has intrinsic value and the capacity for change. We believe a restorative approach is the key to building a better criminal justice system and we support legislation that upholds our values.
The expansion of prison programming and stronger partnerships with non-profit organizations will help promote a more constructive prison culture, which is at the heart of Prison Fellowship’s mission. Federal prisons should provide opportunities for men and women behind bars to make amends and earn back the public’s trust. The regular use of risk assessment, individualized prison program plans, and opportunities for earlier release to community corrections, will be a significant step in transforming the federal prison system. This legislation will allow men and women in our federal prisons to return home sooner and better prepared to give back to their families and communities at their highest potential.
PRISON FELLOWSHIP'S WORK ON THE PRISON REFORM AND REDEMPTION ACT AND THE CORRECTIONS ACT
Prison Fellowship has played a leading role in building a coalition of support for prison reform. Prison Fellowship spearheaded this letter of support, lobbied dozens of Congressional offices, and provided advocacy opportunities for our grassroots network to weigh in directly with their representatives.
HOW YOU CAN TAKE ACTION
It only takes a minute to speak up for the tens of thousands of lives that will be impacted by these bills. Use our easy online advocacy tool to send a letter to your Representative in support of comprehensive justice reform!