DearColleague.us

Letter

From: The Honorable Robert C. “Bobby” Scott
Sent By: paige.schwartz@mail.house.gov
Date: 1/29/2016

JOIN THE CALL FOR BOLD, EVIDENCE-BASED REFORM OF THE FEDERAL CORRECTIONS SYSTEM!

 

Join Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) and Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) on Monday, February 1st from 4-6 p.m. in Rayburn 2226 for a briefing and panel discussion with bipartisan members from the Charles Colson Task Force on Federal Corrections on how to reform the federal criminal justice system, enhance public safety, and save the government billions of dollars.

Congress established the bipartisan Colson Task Force in 2014 in response to growing concerns about the scale and cost of the federal Bureau of Prisons, which currently houses 197,000 people with a budget of almost $7.5 billion this year.

Chaired by former Republican congressman from Oklahoma, J.C. Watts, Jr., and vice chair Alan Mollohan, former Democratic congressman from West Virginia, the Task Force developed its recommendations after its year-long investigation, which included receiving input from over 100 experts and stakeholders through public testimony, roundtable convenings, discussions with leading experts, and conversations with those currently confined in federal prison.

In its new report, Transforming Prisons, Restoring Lives, this Congressionally-mandated blue-ribbon panel has laid out a detailed roadmap of ambitious, consensus recommendations that prioritize public safety while reserving prison for those who truly need it.  Taken together, these reforms are projected to reduce the federal prison population by 60,000 in the coming years and save more than $5 billion.

 

Dear Colleague:

As co-chairs of the House Overcriminalization Task Force, we learned that since 1980, we have increased federal prison spending annually by 595 percent, adjusted for inflation, causing prisons to increasingly compete for resources with other law enforcement and national security programs. Meanwhile, states that have made common-sense reforms to their criminal justice systems have seen both reduced prison spending and reduced crime rates, according to The Pew Charitable Trusts.

It is clear that the House of Representatives is ready for meaningful, evidence-based reform that will reduce crime andsave money.

Now is not the time for piecemeal approaches to criminal justice reform that only take  small steps forward while setting progress backward with new and expanded penalties and exclusions from relief.  We should not legislate based on fear, but rather on what the facts, research, and state experience demonstrate.

To the contrary, we must make common-sense, system-wide reforms to the federal sentencing and corrections system so that we can safely reduce the size and cost of federal sentencing and corrections in a fiscally-responsible manner and reinvest savings in law enforcement and community initiatives.

We urge you to review the Colson Task Force’s report (available through the hyperlink above) join us for this panel discussion on evidence-based reforms that have proven successful.  The Colson Task Force recommends that the federal criminal justice system move away from its current “one size fits all” approach to meting out punishment and delivering treatment and programs.  Instead, they advise that sentencing decisions and correctional responses be based on the individual case—an approach grounded in research and evidence as the most effective means of reducing recidivism and improving public safety. 

We are encouraged that after setting aside politics to focus on policy, just like we did with the House Overcriminalization Task Force, the Colson Task Force’s recommendations overwhelmingly reflect the same findings and recommendations we reached and that formed the basis for our bill, the Safe, Accountable, Fair, and Effective (SAFE) Justice Act, H.R. 2944, which has 58 evenly-distributed bipartisan cosponsors.  When initiatives are proven by research and evidence to reduce crime and save money, there is room for a great deal of agreement and progress.

To RSVP or for more information about the House Judiciary Committee’s Overcriminalization Task Force and the SAFE Justice Act, please contact Amy Bos (Sensenbrenner) at amy.bos@mail.house.gov, or Vanessa Chen (Scott) atvanessa.chen@mail.house.gov.

Sincerely,

          Jim Sensenbrenner                                                                                 Bobby Scott

          Member of Congress                                                                              Member of Congress