Rep. Paul Ryan’s new anti-poverty proposal calls for federal sentencing and prison reforms

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Rep. Paul Ryan’s new anti-poverty proposal calls for federal sentencing and prison reforms


House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan “released a new discussion draft, ‘Expanding Opportunity in America,’ in it he proposes a pilot project to strengthen the safety net and discusses a number of reforms to the EITC, education, criminal justice, and regressive regulation.”

Chapter 4 of the document is focused on criminal justice reforms.

About 2.2 million people are currently behind bars.This number has increased more than a 340 percent since 1980.  this country spends more than  $80 billion a year on corrections.

The punishment associated with a felony conviction   extends beyond prison time.  Once people have paid their debt to society, they should be able to rejoin society and pursue their lives.

The most tragic consequence of our orgy of imprisonment has been it’s horrific impact on completely innocent African-American children.

Ryan claims that his federal sentencing reform’s goal is    ameliorate that collateral impact on children and families.

Although the states imprison most offenders,  reforms at the federal level are a necessary beginning. Hopefully, the  states and local governments would follow.

This “discussion draft” explores  reforms on multiple fronts — how we sentence individuals to prison, how offenders are treated inside prison, and how society helps them to reintegrate afterwards.

The “reforms” would apply to only non-violent and low-risk offenders.  Unlike state inmates, only 6 percent of federal inmates are violent offenders.  In fact, most federal prisoners—nearly 51 percent — are serving time for a drug-related offense. U.S. Sentencing Commission data establishes that most of these federal drug offenders have minor criminal records.

The proposal suggests three possible reforms:

• Grant judges more flexibility to ignore mandatory-minimum laws  when sentencing non-violent drug offenders.

• Implement a risk- and needs-assessment system in federal prisons while expanding enrollment in rehabilitative programming to reduce recidivism. Allow non-violent and low-risk inmates to use enrollment to earn time off their prison stay towards prerelease custody.

• Partner with reforms at the state and local level….

This “discussion paper” is just that, the platform for a long overdue discussion to begin.

I hope that we can meaningfully change the manner in which we imprison people in our country and here in Louisiana , the most locked-up state on the planet.

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