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December 1, 2016

Lame (duck) Obama Administration announces series of "sweeping" reforms at the Federal Bureau of Prisons

Download (5)I suppose the cliche phrase "better late than never" should keep me calm when I see notable news these days from the Obama Administration concerning criminal justice reform.  But this DOJ press release from yesterday, which carries the heading "Justice Department Announces Reforms at Bureau of Prisons to Reduce Recidivism and Promote Inmate Rehabilitation," prompts frustration rather than calm because it announces reforms that seem so sound and yet so late.  Here are the substantive highlights:

Today, the Department of Justice announced a series of reforms at the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) designed to reduce recidivism and increase the likelihood of inmates’ safe and successful return to the community. These efforts include building a semi-autonomous school district within the federal prison system, reforming federal halfway houses, covering the cost of obtaining state-issued photo IDs for federal inmates prior to their release from custody and providing additional services for female inmates.

“Helping incarcerated individuals prepare for life after prison is not just sound public policy; it is a moral imperative,” said Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch. “These critical reforms will help give federal inmates the tools and assistance they need to successfully return home as productive, law-abiding members of society. By putting returning citizens in a position to make the most of their second chance, we can create stronger communities, safer neighborhoods and brighter futures for all.”

“The sweeping changes that we are announcing today chart a new course for the Bureau of Prisons that will help make our prisons more effective, our communities safer and our families stronger," said Deputy Attorney General Sally Q. Yates. “One of the best ways to prevent crime is by reducing recidivism, and one of the best ways to reduce recidivism is by equipping inmates with the tools they need to successfully reenter society."

Last year, with the department’s support, BOP retained outside consultants to review the agency’s operations and recommend changes designed to reduce the likelihood of inmates re-offending after their release from prison. As part of today’s announcement, the department is launching a new website, www.justice.gov/prison-reform, that compiles current and ongoing reforms at BOP, and includes the final reports from the outside consultants.

The department announced additional details regarding these efforts:

Building a school district within the federal prison system....

Reforming federal halfway houses....

Covering the cost of state-issued IDs prior to inmates’ release....

Enhancing programs for female inmates....

These initiatives are part of the department’s deep commitment to a fair, effective criminal justice system that promotes public safety and prepare inmates for their return to the community, thereby reducing the likelihood that a cycle of crime will continue.  

I think it neither naive nor unfair to assert that seeking to reduce recidivism and promote inmate rehabilitation should be a very top criminal justice priority for any and every Administration as they take over the reins of the Department of Justice and its (very expensive) Federal Bureau of Prisons.  And I see nothing in these "sweeping" BOP reforms that could not have been effectively pioneered eight years ago in the first few months of the Obama Administration rather than only now in the last few (lame duck) months of the Obama Administration.  in other words, though I am pleased to see these late-in-the-day federal prison reform efforts, I cannot help but respond to these new developments with the frustrating feeling that DOJ and BOP during the most of the Obama years were mostly "asleep at the wheel" when it came to critical public safety prison reform priorities.  

Sigh and Grrr.

December 1, 2016 at 09:20 AM | Permalink


Oh, you're so brave.

Posted by: anonningly | Dec 1, 2016 12:39:53 PM

What does my bravery have to do with anything, anonningly?

Posted by: Doug B. | Dec 1, 2016 12:53:27 PM

We get it Doug you hate Obama.

Posted by: Don't Ask | Dec 1, 2016 4:44:40 PM

I do not hate anyone, except those who think I hate folks 😉

Posted by: Doug B. | Dec 1, 2016 6:30:15 PM

He really dislikes Bill Clinton though, in one comment suggesting Trump came out better.

Anyway, it takes time to get going, with new people etc., examining everything etc., so it is hard to do things in the first few months. It would be appreciated if people were able to do that, including staffed with people top down insider enough etc. to be able to do that more than others. But, unfortunately, people in certain states voted for Trump more than Clinton.

Posted by: Joe | Dec 2, 2016 11:03:09 AM

Joe: I do tend to dislike lawyers who (1) as Prez, lie blatantly and directly to the American people to cover up sexual misconduct, and (2) lie under oath as part of a foolish effort to cover up rather than fess up to sexual misconduct.

These factors account for some of the reasons I dislike Bill Clinton, but there are many, many, many, many more. His meeting with Loretta Lynch, which may well have cost his wife the election, is another big strike against Slick Willy in my eyes.

Posted by: Doug B. | Dec 2, 2016 5:53:36 PM


Yes, it is quite a bit frustrating. There are not months left, but just over a month. Yep, you wonder what else was going on for 8 years.

Here is a great group. I know the founder, who has done an incredible job building an organization that has helped a huge number of convicts transition to productive lives.

His sister, Marilyn, was murdered.


From a 2012 article

The program Sage launched in 1998 now operates in prisons throughout Texas, in 10 other states and in Australia, South Africa and Mexico.

The ministry has more than 900 volunteers. More than 20,000 prisoners have participated in the Bridges to Life course, and about 15,000 have graduated.

Sage plans to serve 2,700 to 2,800 prisoners this year.

Posted by: Dudley Sharp | Dec 2, 2016 8:26:08 PM

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