"The Prison Reform and Redemption Act will expand and improve the delivery of prison programming, allowing men and women in our federal prisons to return home better prepared to give back to their families and communities at their highest potential." -Heather Rice-Minus, VP of Government Affairs for Prison Fellowship
(Washington, DC)—[CBN News] A bipartisan effort to tackle prison reform is making its way through the House and Christian organizations are singing its praises. (Image: via CBN News)
The Prison Reform and Redemption Act co-sponsored by Congressman Doug Collins, R-GA, and Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, D-NY hopes to cut down on federal recidivism rates.
So what's in the proposal?
• Expansion of prison programs and earned time credit opportunities through the use of the Bureau of Prison's sponsored anti-recidivism programs, drug rehabilitation and work training.
• Risk assessment by the DOJ in which the department decides the best programming for each prisoner.
• Incentives for program completion including increased phone privileges and the chance to serve remaining time in halfway housing.
The bill will use faith-based organizations to help in the efforts.
According to Christian ministry Prison Fellowship, about 40,000 federal prisoners will be released this year and nearly 20,000 will return within the next three years.
"The revolving door of criminal justice is devastating to families and depresses economic activity in many communities," Heather Rice- Minus, VP of Government Affairs for Prison Fellowship told CBN News.
She supports the bill and is hopeful about its potential.
"The Prison Reform and Redemption Act will expand and improve the delivery of prison programming, allowing men and women in our federal prisons to return home better prepared to give back to their families and communities at their highest potential," said Rice-Minus.
Christian ministries such as Prison Fellowship have had success in changing re-entry statistics by working with prisoners in areas such as job training and spiritual mentoring.
The Texas Offenders Reentry Initiative, another Christian ministry boasts a recidivism rate of 11% while the national average sits at 52%.
Under the House version of the bill, people convicted of 48 different categories including homicide, child exploitation, sexual abuse, kidnapping and treason are ineligible for credit towards prerelease.
Critics say that list is too broad.
According to Politico, the House version has the backing of both the White House and the Department of Justice. White House Advisor Jared Kushner is leading the effort to bridge the gap and keep the bill moving through the Senate.
However, the NAACP says the measure doesn't go far enough when it comes to addressing mandatory minimum sentences and it stops short of a bill introduced by GOP Senator Chuck Grassley last year.
That bill would get rid of some mandatory minimum sentences for certain drug related offenses.
However, CNN commentator and criminal justice reform advocate Van Jones writes, "There is still some room for progress. My big heartache—on this topic and so many others—is how much common ground there is when you get people talking—and yet how little we actually do about it. Taking a small but meaningful step together now could allow us to take more steps together later."
The House Judiciary Committee is expected to vote April 25.