Current Compassionate and Early Release Legislation
The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2017 (S. 1917) is a bipartisan bill introduced in the U.S. Senate on October 4, 2017, by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Sens. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Roy Blunt (R-Missouri), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and Tim Scott (R-S.C.).
If passed into law, the bill would, among other things, reduce several federal (not state) mandatory minimum drug and gun sentences and make those reductions retroactive for some federal prisoners; make the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 retroactive; expand the “safety valve” exception for federal drug mandatory minimum sentences; and allow some federal prisoners to spend more time in less restrictive forms of Bureau of Prisons custody if they complete rehabilitative programs and productive activities in prison.
The SAFE Justice Act is a bipartisan bill sponsored by Reps. Jason Lewis (R-Minn.) and Bobby Scott (D-Va.) in the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill does not repeal any federal mandatory minimum sentences or reduce drug mandatory minimum sentences across the board, but instead limits the application of federal mandatory minimum drug sentences to the highest-level offenders, as Congress originally intended. The bill also fixes problems in the drug conspiracy and good time credit laws, reforms the federal compassionate release process, and permits prisoners to earn time off their sentences for completing rehabilitative programs, among many other reforms. FAMM supports the SAFE Justice Act.
Introduced: January 3, 2017 (115th Congress)
Sponsor: Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas)
If passed into law, H.R. 64 would require the Bureau of Prisons to release federal prisoners if the prisoners meet ALL of these criteria:
- They have served at least half of their prison term; and
- They are at least 45 years old; and
- They have never been convicted of a crime of violence; and
- They have not engaged in any prison rule violation that involved violent conduct.
The CORRECTIONS Act of 2017 is a bipartisan bill introduced in the U.S. Senate on October 19, 2017, by Senators John Cornyn (R-TX), Mike Lee (R-UT), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).
If passed into law, the bill would, among other things, allow some federal prisoners to spend more time in less restrictive forms of Bureau of Prisons custody (i.e., a halfway house, home confinement, or community supervision) if they complete rehabilitative programs and productive activities (i.e., jobs) in prison.
The Problem: According to the Justice Department,
- Elderly prisoners are the fastest-growing segment of the federal prison population, due largely to the use of lengthy mandatory minimum sentences over the last 30 years.
- Elderly prisoners are also more expensive to incarcerate than younger prisoners, largely because they often have more medical problems that require treatment, medication, and surgery.
- Elderly prisoners reoffend at lower rates than younger prisoners and have fewer disciplinary incidents while incarcerated.
- Bureau of Prisons (BOP) currently lacks sufficient medical personnel and resources to address elderly offender medical needs within reasonable time periods.
- BOP facilities are not equipped to accommodate the special needs and physical limitations of elderly prisoners (e.g., having lower bunks, handrails in showers, etc.).
- BOP employees are not properly trained to recognize and address the needs of elderly prisoners, and there are currently not enough social workers to help the large number of elderly prisoners find the resources they need for successful reentry.
- The previous BOP pilot program’s criteria were too narrow, leading to the release of only about 80 people over a two-year period, out of a total prison population of over 210,000.
It doesn’t make Americans safer to pay more for the incarceration of elderly prisoners who pose little public safety threat.
Solution: Create a permanent program to allow either the BOP or an elderly federal prisoner to request that prisoner’s transfer out of prison and onto home confinement, by submitting a written request to the U.S. Attorney General. Violations of release conditions or committing new crimes could mean that the home detention would be revoked and the person would be sent back to federal prison. The Second Chance Act of 2007, signed into law by President George W. Bush, included an elderly offender release program, but it was temporary and only lasted two years. Its criteria were also very narrow, so it benefited only about 80 prisoners, despite the growing numbers of elderly prisoners. Making such a release program broader and permanent would reduce prison costs and treat the elderly with greater dignity by permitting incarceration in their own homes, without endangering the public.