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February 6, 2015

Bipartisan Recidivism Risk Reduction Act introduced in US House

This notable press release from the office of Representative Jason Chaffetz provides the details of a federal prison reform bill that would be extremely consequential if it can get enacted. Here are excerpts from the release providing basic details about the bill:

Republicans Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) and Trey Gowdy (R-SC) joined with Democrats Cedric Richmond (D-LA) and Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) to introduce H.R. 759, Recidivism Risk Reduction Act. This bipartisan legislation uses risk assessment tools to reduce recidivism, lower the crime rate, and reduces the amount of money spent on the federal prison system....

H.R. 759 would implement a post-sentencing dynamic risk assessment system to identify an inmate’s risk of recidivism. Then, using evidence-based practices developed by states, effective recidivism reduction programs are identified and utilized. The bill would then provide incentives for inmates to participate in those programs.

Ultimately, inmates could earn credits toward an alternative custody arrangement – such as a halfway house or home confinement – at the end of their term. Such arrangements reduce the cost of housing an inmate in the federal prison system.

The program will be phased in over a five year period. The savings will be reinvested into further expansions of proven recidivism reduction programs during this time. After that, it is anticipated that the savings can be used either for other Justice Department priorities such as FBI agents, US Attorney offices etc., or the savings can be used to help reduce the deficit. Similar programs have found success on a state level in several states including Texas, Oklahoma, Ohio, and North Carolina.

In addition, Reps. Chaffetz and Jefferies introduced HR 760, the Bureau of Corrections Renaming Act. This bipartisan legislation would simply rename the “Bureau of Prisons” – under the jurisdiction of the Department of Justice – the “Bureau of Corrections.” Over ninety percent of all federal prisoners will eventually be released. This small change will help the Bureau remember that its mission is not just to house people, but also to rehabilitate prisoners such that they are productive members of society when released. Forty-eight states throughout the country use the word ‘corrections’ in describing their prisons.

The Attorney General is directed to consult with appropriate federal agencies and stakeholders to design, develop, implement, and regularly upgrade an actuarial Post Sentencing Risk Assessment System which shall include one or more comprehensive risk and needs assessment tools, which shall be peer-reviewed and validated, and periodically re-validated, on the federal prison population for the specific purposes of this Act.

Prisoners will be divided into high, moderate, or low risks of recidivism. Prisoners will be periodically re-evaluated and have the opportunity to progress to low risk of recidivism. Prisoners who misbehave can move the other way – i.e. from low to moderate risk of recidivism. Bureau of Prisons shall incentivize prisoners to reduce their individual risk of recidivism by participating in and completing recidivism reduction programs.

Prisoners who have committed more serious crimes such as child abuse, terrorism, and violent felonies, are not eligible for the program.

If a prisoner is successfully participating in and/or completing programs, holding a prison job, participating in educational courses, participating in faith-based services and courses, or delivering programs or faith-based services and courses to other prisoners, the prisoner can earn [certain credits based on their risk levels]. Low risk prisoners will be eligible for consideration for alternative custody such as halfway houses, home confinement, ankle bracelets, etc.

This is not automatic – it must be reviewed and approved by the prison warden, the chief probation officer in the relevant federal district, and a judge in the relevant federal district.

This is not a reduction in sentence – prisoners are not being released and nothing in this Act affects Truth in Sentencing requirements that prisoners complete at least 85% of their sentence.

Some recent related posts:

UPDATE:  Not to be overlooked (even though I managed to overlook it), this past week also saw another notable bipartisan federal bill of not introduced in both houses of Congress.  This press release from the office of Senator Rand Paul provides the basics:

Today, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Representative Thomas Massie (R-KY), and Representative Bobby Scott (D-VA) introduced the Justice Safety Valve Act (S. 353/H.R. 706) in the Senate and House of Representatives.  The Justice Safety Valve Act would give federal judges the ability to impose sentences below mandatory minimums in appropriate cases based upon mitigating factors.

February 6, 2015 at 01:01 PM | Permalink


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Its nice to know that some effort is present. But this is not going to do squat.

Dmup the mandatories, reinstate parole or take it from 87.2% down to 60%.

Take clemency out of the Justice depts area, its a no brainer.

Posted by: 187Midwest Guy | Feb 6, 2015 9:07:44 PM

The Supremacy once obtained a 7 figure grant from the Federal government. It learned, 1) after overhead little was left; 2) easier to have earned half the money on one's own; and with no restrictions; 3) the time on paper work and procedure threatened the goal of the grant. The federal government does nothing well. It learned, and never did that again.

There are so many restrictions, and conditions, I would be surprised if a single person ever benefited from this idiotic proposal. I do know, federal employees will do well carrying out its restrictions and conditions.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Feb 6, 2015 11:12:58 PM

187MidwestGuy is right. Proposal sounds useless.

"This is not a reduction in sentence – prisoners are not being released and nothing in this Act affects Truth in Sentencing requirements that prisoners complete at least 85% of their sentence."

Then what's the point?

More strong evidence politicians have devolved (if such a thing were possible) to the point where tinkering at the margins of real problems is as much as they're ever likely to accomplish. We should find something else to call them; "leaders" really doesn't apply.

Posted by: John K | Feb 7, 2015 9:17:27 AM

While I despise the idea of handholding criminals, I realize that there are necessary steps to take in order to prevent or alleviate the alarming recidivism rates. Yes, it is safe to say that most people commit crimes all the time and the ones incarcerated are just there (in prison) because they were unlucky enough to have gotten caught, however, you don’t see everyone smuggling drugs, raping people, or murdering them, so I don’t quite sympathize with them or their ‘bad prison conditions’. Having stated that, I don’t want ex-convicts causing more and more crime upon release due to the lack of resources given to prepare themselves for the outside world. This Recidivism Risk Reduction Act may not be the most efficient plan, but it is a great start. It will never eradicate recidivism completely because I do believe that some criminals don’t want to change or don’t want to live honest lives. When a prisoner is released without a real grip on how to survive in the outside world, along with housing and jobs, they will most often resort back to crime to survive. I do find it interesting that the more heinous criminals would not be offered these programs. In one way I see it as a good thing, but when I consider that they too, will be released on parole, it worries me. In my eyes, when you commit severe crimes (which may serve as different definitions depending on who is reading this), you are giving up your rights. This is a strong feeling of mine, but I am rational enough to know that we do need to help these inmates/prisoners, so that we have safer lives on the outside when they join us.

Posted by: shayladenise | Mar 9, 2015 2:01:58 PM

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