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June 7, 2018
Large group of former prisoners urge Senate leaders to move forward with FIRST STEP Act
As reported in this article from The Hill, a "group of 40 former state and federal inmates is pushing Senate leaders to take up the White House-backed prison reform bill that has divided Democrats and liberal groups, as well as GOP senators." Here is more:
In a letter Wednesday to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and ranking member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the former prisoners argue the First Step Act, while modest, offers some meaningful reforms....
The former inmates say they know the bill isn’t perfect, but it’s something. “All of us would change the bill in different ways and many of us wished it addressed excessive federal mandatory minimum sentences,” they wrote. “But we also know that the bill would provide some long overdue relief and hope to more than 180,000 people in federal prison and millions of their family members and loved ones on the outside.”...
Supporters of prison reform say demands for all or nothing is the wrong approach. “We’ve been disturbed by some of the comments we’ve heard that doing nothing is better than doing something and that is not at all what we hear from the tens of thousands of prisoners we’re in touch with,” said Kevin Ring, president of Families against Mandatory Minimums, who spent one-and-a-half years in federal prison. “It’s also inconsistent with our own experiences being in federal prisons and knowing how much reform is needed. Waiting to do anything until you get everything is deeply misguided.”
The full letter and the list of signatories is available at this link. Here is an excerpt of a missive that merits a full read:
Despite the bill’s clear benefits, we have heard some people suggest it would be better for Congress to do nothing rather than pass this bill. Such talk reflects a disturbing detachment from the hardships that so many families are experiencing today because of our counterproductive federal sentencing and prison policies.
While we do not claim to speak for all people who are serving time in federal prison or their families, we (or the organizations at which we work) are in touch with tens of thousands of these incarcerated individuals and their families every week. Many of us still have friends and loved ones behind bars. The people we talk to have no use for abstract debates about whether to pass comprehensive or narrow reform, speculative theories about how passing reform today might impact future reform or, worst of all, political gamesmanship. These families just need some help. They shouldn’t have to wait any longer.
We also know from our personal experience that meaningful programming, educational, and job training opportunities in the federal system are lacking. All too often people are warehoused for decades with no hope. We know that too many parents are incarcerated so far away from their children that they rarely get to visit them — just imagine seeing your kids once or twice a year, if that. Going without the hugs and kisses of our loved ones for weeks and months was the most difficult part about being in prison. We know others who have gone for years without that critical physical contact. We also know that the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ incorrect calculation of good time credit has deprived people of shortening their lengthy prison sentences. If anyone tells you these reforms are not “real” or “meaningful” to vulnerable families and individuals across the country, they simply don’t know what they are talking about.
Some of many prior related posts:
- House Judiciary Committee approves FIRST STEP Act by a vote of 25-5 after lots of discussion of amendments
- FIRST STEP Act passes US House of Representatives by vote of 360-59(!), but its fate in Senate remains uncertain
- Mapping out the politics for the path forward for federal prison (and sentencing?) reform
- A fittingly depressing account of the current state and potential fate of federal statutory criminal justice reform
- Interesting new US Sentencing Commission analysis of possible impact of Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2017
- On eve of House Committee consideration, distinct advice from criminal justice reform groups on latest federal prison reform proposal
- Five prominent congressional Democrats write in opposition to federal statutory prison reform without broader sentencing reform
- The latest political back and forth, on both sides of the aisle, as federal prison reform efforts gain momentum
- Prez Trump pledges to sign prison reform that will be "best in the world"
- "President Trump supports prison reform"
- On eve of planned House vote on FIRST STEP Act, NY Times editorial misguidedly asserts a "partial bill could end up being worse than nothing"
- An (encouraging?) update on the state of federal criminal justice reform in US Senate
- Disconcerting update on Senate's (lack of) progress on federal statutory criminal justice reforms
June 7, 2018 at 09:18 AM | Permalink
Interesting article on Israeli ruling:
"Room for Optimism? Israeli Supreme Court Presses for Implementation of Ruling on Inmates’ Right to Personal Space"
Notable tidbit: "In the past, this principle led the court to uphold an inmate's right to vote in national elections, to publish articles in the newspaper and to receive private medical care from doctors outside the prison system."
The vote link goes to foreign text, but a quick search led me to find this:
Posted by: Joe | Jun 7, 2018 11:20:55 AM
Senators care about only one thing. It is not money. It is votes. "Show me the votes."
Posted by: David Behar | Jun 8, 2018 7:02:46 PM