(Washington, DC) — On January 16, the U.S. Senate passed a new federal budget (H.R. 3547), which includes one million dollars of funding for the formation of the bipartisan, independent, nine-member Charles Colson Task Force on Federal Corrections. President Obama is expected to sign the budget into law on Saturday. The Task Force was championed by House Commerce, Science, and Justice Appropriations Subcommittee chairman Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA). It will study the federal prison system and make recommendations on a wide variety of issues, including alleviating overcrowding (federal prisons are at 137 percent of their capacity) and improving rehabilitation and reentry so that prisoners remain crime-free once released. FAMM and a wide coalition of other advocates supported creation of the Task Force.
Today, FAMM government affairs counsel Molly Gill issued the following statement in response to the news of the Task Force’s authorization:
This Task Force is a positive bipartisan achievement and an acknowledgment that we can’t afford to keep doing business as usual in our federal prisons. Severely overcrowded prisons are dangerous all around: for guards, prisoners, rehabilitation, and public safety. The Task Force will help improve prisons, but it can also help Congress address the real cause of overcrowding: lengthy mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent offenders. The Task Force’s work could complement the ongoing bipartisan effort to reform our expensive and excessive sentencing laws.
Two bipartisan bills being considered in Congress – the Smarter Sentencing Act (H.R. 3382/S. 1410) and the Justice Safety Valve Act (H.R. 1695/S. 619) – would reform federal mandatory minimum sentencing laws and reduce the size and costs of the federal prison system.
In 2013, the Congressional Research Service found that mandatory minimum sentences are one of the primary drivers of the exponential growth of the federal Bureau of Prisons’ (BOP) population and budget in the last 30 years. In the FY 2014 omnibus budget bill just passed, the BOP’s budget ($6.9 billion) consumes a full quarter of all Department of Justice funding ($27.4 billion), a ratio that Attorney General Eric Holder calls “unsustainable” and that the agency’s inspector general, Michael Horowitz, lists as one of the Department’s top management challenges.
To learn more about the Task Force and its namesake, Prison Fellowship Ministries founder Charles Colson, click here.
FAMM is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization advocating for fair, proportionate, and individualized sentences that fit the crime and the offender and protect the public. To arrange interviews with Molly Gill or for more information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.