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senate Bill S. 467

Allowing Low and Medium Risk Prisoners to Earn Credits for Early Release

Argument in favor

To reduce the size of the prison population, we must allow prisoners that are unlikely to reoffend to complete job training or drug counseling and spend part of their sentence under community supervision.

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05/14/2015
The American prison population, a huge portion of whom are nonviolent drug offenders, has exploded as a direct result of the miserable failure we call the War on Drugs. The US houses 5% of the world's population, but we incarcerate 25% of the world's inmates. We must stop treating drug use like a criminal issue, and treat it like the health problem it is. Sentencing minor drug offenders to rehab in lieu of prison is an excellent place to start. The next step is to shut down private prisons, whose existence depends on a high demand for inmates.
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sethenglish's Opinion
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05/14/2015
This allows prisoners to be rehabilitated, which should be the point of prison.
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05/14/2015
The idea behind the new American prison system is rehabilitation, and a part of that process must be job training and supervised interaction within the community.
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Argument opposed

Recidivism rates are high because prisoners are too tempted to return to crime after their release. Not only is this bill unlikely to succeed in its goals, but it poses major disadvantages to minority prisoners.

Ralph's Opinion
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05/14/2015
As a retired correction officer I know first hand that criminals who get a break are more likely to return to prison expecting the same break the next time. The parole system is not equipped to monitor a large influx of additional inmates. Lack of monitoring is one of the biggest failures of the parole system. The liberal media would have you believe that these are upstanding citizens that just need a second chance and while that is occasionally true it is the exception not the rule.
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Open.Your.Eyes's Opinion
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05/17/2015
Yes, America's prisons are overcrowded. Yes, this bill, if passed, might help free up a few cells. That is the lazy way to do it. This whole "penal system" in America needs to be rethought. Are our citizens so despicable that we have to boast housing 25% of the world's inmates? We shouldn't even be discussing the "tweaking" of our penal system. We should be working on rewriting it. Among the most popular reasons for incarceration is non-violent drug offenses. Ask someone who has been/is addicted to drugs; see if they would recommend a secluded cell or genuine human compassion to overcome their personal struggles. This bill poses no solutions, only more paperwork.
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Douglas's Opinion
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05/15/2015
Don't expect to get out early because you didn't do a serious crime. Don't do the crime if you can't do the time!
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What is Senate Bill S. 467?

This bill would create regular "risk assessments" of federal inmates, to determine how likely they are to commit another crime if they are released. It would also offer new mechanisms for "low- and medium-risk" prisoners to reduce their sentences, and support programs that reduce recidivism (a relapse into criminal behavior). 

The Dept. of Justice (DOJ) would conduct risk assessments of all eligible prisoners to label them at a low, medium, or high-risk of committing another crime upon release. Prisoners who are incarcerated because of sex offenses, terrorism, violent crimes, repeat offenses, major organized crime, and major fraud would be excluded from the program.

The criteria for risk assessments are not outlined in this bill, but if it passes, criteria would be set immediately after. Prisoners that are assessed to be low- and medium-risk would be able to participate in recidivism reduction programs like drug counseling or vocational training, while high-risk prisoners would need to reduce their risk level to participate. 

Participating low-risk prisoners could earn a 10 day credit for every 30 days that they participate in those programs, while medium-risk prisoners could earn five day credits for 30 days of participation. These credits could be used to allow those prisoners to serve out the final days of their sentences under community supervision — like in a halfway home or home confinement. The credits could only be used by a medium-risk prisoner if it is highly unlikely that they will reoffend after release because of their participation in these programs.

Low- and medium-risk prisoners in this program would be authorized to spend as much as 10 percent of their sentence under community supervision or home confinement under this legislation.

This bill doesn’t authorize any new spending for this program, and directs the DOJ to partner with faith-based and non-profit organizations to implement the vocation training programs, and community supervision of prisoners post-release.

Impact

Federal prisoners, their families and communities, parole officers, faith-based and non-profit groups, the DOJ.

Cost of Senate Bill S. 467

A CBO cost estimate is unavailable.

More Information

In-Depth: As of May 2015, there has been an upswing of optimism surrounding this bill’s ability to pass through the Senate Judiciary Committee given that the Committee’s Chairman, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) has expressed an eagerness to work on the proposal. It also has bipartisan support (with five Democrats and four Republicans co-sponsoring).

Despite upbeat speculation that this bill could eventually be passed by Congress and signed into law, there has been criticism as well — particularly with regard to the inmates it would help. Both the New York Times Editorial Board and Vox have pointed out that this legislation is less likely to help minority inmates with more robust criminal records, thereby making it more difficult for them to be able to participate in the programs offered.

A similar version of this bill was introduced during the 113th Congress, but it didn’t receive a vote despite passing the Senate Judiciary Committee on a 15-2 margin.

Other provisions of the bill include: 

For inmates who are getting released within two years, risk assessments would be conducted every year. If inmates will be released in 10 years or more, risk assessments would be done every other year. All other prisoners would get their assessments every 3 years. 


A pre-sentence report on incoming inmates would be required to assist in the risk assessment process. That report would include:

  • Information about the defendant’s history of substance abuse and/or addiction.
  • A defendant’s service in the Armed Forces or veteran status.
  • A detailed plan approved by their probation officer for reducing the likelihood of  future substance abuse and/or recidivism by addressing the defendant’s specific recidivism risk factors. The plan should also address ways to help the inmate re-enter into civilian life.

Of Note: The federal prison population has grown over time from 25,000 in 1980 to 219,000 in 2013.

Recidivism is a broad term that defines any relapse into criminal behavior after a prisoner has been released. A study from the National Institute of Justice found:

  • “Within three years of release, about two-thirds (67.8 percent) of released prisoners were rearrested.

  • Within five years of release, about three-quarters (76.6 percent) of released prisoners were rearrested.

  • Of those prisoners who were rearrested, more than half (56.7 percent) were arrested by the end of the first year.

  • Property offenders were the most likely to be rearrested, with 82.1 percent of released property offenders arrested for a new crime compared with 76.9 percent of drug offenders, 73.6 percent of public order defenders and 71.3 percent of violent offenders.”


Media:

Summary by Eric Revell
(Photo Credit: Flickr user DoD News Features

AKA

CORRECTIONS Act

Official Title

A bill to reduce recidivism and increase public safety, and for other purposes.

bill Progress


  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The house has not voted
  • The senate has not voted
      senate Committees
      Committee on the Judiciary
    IntroducedFebruary 11th, 2015
    The American prison population, a huge portion of whom are nonviolent drug offenders, has exploded as a direct result of the miserable failure we call the War on Drugs. The US houses 5% of the world's population, but we incarcerate 25% of the world's inmates. We must stop treating drug use like a criminal issue, and treat it like the health problem it is. Sentencing minor drug offenders to rehab in lieu of prison is an excellent place to start. The next step is to shut down private prisons, whose existence depends on a high demand for inmates.
    Like (45)
    Follow
    Share
    As a retired correction officer I know first hand that criminals who get a break are more likely to return to prison expecting the same break the next time. The parole system is not equipped to monitor a large influx of additional inmates. Lack of monitoring is one of the biggest failures of the parole system. The liberal media would have you believe that these are upstanding citizens that just need a second chance and while that is occasionally true it is the exception not the rule.
    Like (9)
    Follow
    Share
    This allows prisoners to be rehabilitated, which should be the point of prison.
    Like (22)
    Follow
    Share
    The idea behind the new American prison system is rehabilitation, and a part of that process must be job training and supervised interaction within the community.
    Like (18)
    Follow
    Share
    Yes, America's prisons are overcrowded. Yes, this bill, if passed, might help free up a few cells. That is the lazy way to do it. This whole "penal system" in America needs to be rethought. Are our citizens so despicable that we have to boast housing 25% of the world's inmates? We shouldn't even be discussing the "tweaking" of our penal system. We should be working on rewriting it. Among the most popular reasons for incarceration is non-violent drug offenses. Ask someone who has been/is addicted to drugs; see if they would recommend a secluded cell or genuine human compassion to overcome their personal struggles. This bill poses no solutions, only more paperwork.
    Like (8)
    Follow
    Share
    I think for this idea to work we need to improve prisoner's ability to join back society. Too many people return to crime because no one wants to hire them. By giving them better skills and helping then readjust will prevent them from returning to crime.
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    prison is to rehabilitate not make career prisoners. Whatever happened to prisoners making license plates or any other products that are needed.
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    The vast majority are non-violent drug offenders and shouldn't be in prison anyway. The drug war is a $5 trillion failure.
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    A change of life for a prisoner requires they have a clean slate. Prisoners who serve time and complete job training should have criminal records sealed from public. If the recommit crimes then a judge would rule whether the prior records are relevant to be part of a new trial.
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    We need fewer people incarcerated. As far as non violent drug offenses go, perhaps for basic possession of marijuana we should impose a large monetary fine, like $250 per gram or something. For second time offenders, kick it up to $350. For third time offenders, off to jail they go.
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    Don't expect to get out early because you didn't do a serious crime. Don't do the crime if you can't do the time!
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    They are in the cell for a reason. Leave them in there to serve the time THEY earned.
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    I feel like this would undermine the judicial/penal system. If you commit a crime, you must serve your time. However, given our current punishments on the books, these need to be drastically overhauled and revamped. Non violent drug offenders should not be thrown in jail nor should they get insane sentences. The system is broken. Fix it and then enforce it.
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    If they had jobs and a place to maybe but right now no.
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    If I were a victim if probably say no, so I would have to say ask the victims on a case by case basis...
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    How do you lock up someone for a addiction!!!!
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    The US has the most prisoners per capita than any other developed nation. We need to examine our entire system of sentencing
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    People make mistakes. Once you serve your time you should be allowed to return to society without stigmas following you. Non violent and none rape cases should be allowed to make amends and get early release
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    Any system that encourages people to improve themselves is a step in the right direction. Any system that potentially reduces our massive prison population is a step in the right direction.
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    Can we stop wasting our tax dollars on incarcerating low risk offenders for ridiculous amounts of time and clear some space for the real criminals?
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