Whitehouse and Cornyn Meet with Obama on Criminal Justice

From the Whitehouse Press office:

Washington, DC – Today President Obama and Vice President Biden convened a meeting at the White House to discuss criminal justice reform efforts with key members of Congress, including U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI). Whitehouse, a lead sponsor of the CORRECTIONS Act along with Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), released the statement below regarding the meeting:

“Both Republican and Democratic leaders agree we can pass meaningful criminal justice reform measures this year, and I was grateful for the opportunity to discuss how to best move forward. Senator Cornyn and I have already built a strong bipartisan consensus around our legislation to better prepare inmates for re-entering society and reduce the risk that they’ll commit future crimes, and I strongly support the effort led by other Senators to reform our sentencing laws. I’m hopeful that we will be able to achieve both prison and sentencing reform this year, and I thank President Obama and Vice President Biden for their leadership on this important issue.”

According to the White House, other Senators attending today’s meeting included Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Rand Paul (R-KY), and Mike Lee (R-UT).

The CORRECTIONS Act would improve public safety and save taxpayer money by requiring prisoners to participate in recidivism reduction programs and allowing certain eligible prisoners to earn up to 25 percent of their sentence in prerelease custody for successful completion of these programs. The programs, which can include things like vocational training and substance abuse treatment, have been proven to help former prisoners successfully re-acclimate to society upon release and to reduce the risk that they will commit future crimes.

Arnold’s Latest Big Play: Corralling Unusual Bedfellows to Reform Criminal Justice – Inside Philanthropy: Fundraising Intelligence

We’ll say it again: We love watching the Laura and John Arnold Foundation do business. Why? Because whatever you may think of LJAF’s ideas, this funder is always angling for the big play. And as for those ideas, they’re more eclectic than some might think. While the Arnolds are often cast as part of the conservative education cabal, and John Arnold has been gunning for public pensions reform, the foundation is also friendly to some progressive causes. A case in point: criminal justice reform, where the Arnolds have long pushed to create fairer, more effective policies—backing the Innocence Project, among other groups.

Lately, though, the foundation has been thinking even bigger about ways to move the needle in this area, and capitalize on how more Americans of all political stripes want to move away from a harsh war on crime that’s a legacy of the bygone crack era of the 1990s.

via Arnold’s Latest Big Play: Corralling Unusual Bedfellows to Reform Criminal Justice – Inside Philanthropy: Fundraising Intelligence – Inside Philanthropy.

This Funder is Supporting the Data to Make Big Juvenile Justice Policy Changes – Inside Philanthropy

Youth advocates and their funders are hoping that 2015 is going to be a very good year for juvenile justice reform. The year is starting with bipartisan legislation submitted to congress by senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) which would overhaul outdated juvenile justice laws nationally, with a particular focus on ending imprisonment for status offenses, such as children who are truant, runaway, or violate curfew, alcohol, and tobacco laws. The new law also provides clear direction to state and local governments on how to stop racial profiling and reduce levels of imprisonment for young people of color.

via This Funder is Supporting the Data to Make Big Juvenile Justice Policy Changes – Children | Youth | Grants – Inside Philanthropy.

As the Odds Improve, MacArthur and Other Funders Step Up Fight for Criminal Justice Reform – Inside Philanthropy

Criminal justice is one of those areas where funders have been banging their head against a wall for years—working against harsh practices that defy social science research, not to mention common sense.

Now, that blood-stained wall is finally starting to crack, as policy leaders and the public alike wake up to the negative consequences of embroiling so many Americans in the criminal justice system. With the wind finally blowing in the right direction, some foundations are stepping up efforts to make change.

via As the Odds Improve, MacArthur and Other Funders Step Up Fight for Criminal Justice Reform – Inside Philanthropy: Fundraising Intelligence – Inside Philanthropy.

Bipartisan Prison Reform Bill Introduced, Based on RI and Texas

From the Whitehouse Press Office:

Sens. Whitehouse, Cornyn Introduce Prison Reform Legislation

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and John Cornyn (R-TX) today announced their plans to introduce the Corrections Oversight, Recidivism Reduction, and Eliminating Costs for Taxpayers in Our National System (CORRECTIONS) Act.

The bill, which would improve public safety and save taxpayer money by requiring lower-risk prisoners to participate in recidivism reduction programs to earn up to 25 percent of their sentence in prerelease custody, is based off reform efforts in both Texas and Rhode Island. A similar version of the bill passed the Senate Judiciary Committee with a 15-2 vote last Congress.

“Texas has been a national leader for prison reform, finding ways to partner with faith-based and community organizations to ensure prisoners can change their lives instead of becoming career criminals,” Sen. Cornyn said. “We can improve our criminal justice system, save money, and make our communities safer all at the same time. I am hopeful Congress will follow our state’s lead in this important area.”

“As a former state and federal prosecutor, I recognize that there are no easy solutions to overflowing prison populations and skyrocketing corrections spending,” said Whitehouse, a former U.S. Attorney and Attorney General for Rhode Island. “But states like Rhode Island have shown that it is possible to cut prison costs while making the public safer. Our bill is built on the simple premise that when inmates are better prepared to re-enter communities, they are less likely to commit crimes after they are released – and that is in all of our interests.”

The federal prison population has expanded rapidly in recent decades, growing from around 24,000 inmates in 1980 to over 210,000 today. Spending on the federal Bureau of Prisons has risen dramatically, rising from $3.1 billion in 1998 to a requested $6.9 billion in fiscal year 2013.

Recidivism has also been proven to be a significant problem, with one study estimating that 68 percent of prisoners from 30 states surveyed were arrested once again within three years of being released.

Background on the Whitehouse-Cornyn Legislation:

– Requires all eligible offenders to undergo regular risk assessments to determine whether an offender has a low, medium, or high-risk of re-offending.

– Excludes all sex offenders, terrorism offenders, violent offenders, repeat offenders, major organized crime offenders, and major fraud offenders from earning credits under the program.

– Encourages participation in recidivism reduction programs and productive activities, like prison jobs.

– Contains no new authorized spending, and requires the Bureau of Prisons to partner with faith-based groups and non-profits.

– Allows earned time credits for low-risk prisoners of up to 10 days for every 30 days that the prisoner is successfully completing a reoffender reduction program or productive activity.

– Allows medium risk prisoners to earn a 5 day for 30 day time credit while successfully completing recidivism reduction programs and productive activities. These offenders would only be able to use these credits if they demonstrate a substantial reduction in their probability of reoffending as a result of participation in programs.

– Does not allow high risk offenders to use any time credits unless they reduce their risk levels to a lower tier.

– Would allow certain low risk offenders who demonstrate exemplary behavior to spend the final portion of their earned credit time on community supervision.

Whitehouse and Cornyn Announce Bipartisan Prison Reform Legislation

From the Whitehouse Press Office:

Washington, DC – Tomorrow at 11:00 a.m., U.S. Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) will hold a press conference to announce their plans to introduce bipartisan legislation to reform our nation’s prison system. The legislation would build on reforms that have proven successful at the state level to reduce prison spending and overcrowding, and to help inmates become productive members of society upon re-entry.

Prison reform has been reported to be among the top areas for bipartisan legislative action in this Congress, with Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) recently listing it as one of his top three priorities. Both Cornyn and Whitehouse serve on the committee.

EVENT: Sens. Cornyn and Whitehouse Announce Bipartisan Prison Legislation

WHEN: Tuesday, February 10, 2014
11:00 a.m.

WHERE: Senate Radio-TV Gallery
U.S. Capitol

Whitehouse Praises Middle Class Supports in President’s Budget

From the Whitehouse Press Office:

Washington, DC – Today President Obama released his budget proposal for fiscal year 2016. U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), a member of the Senate Budget Committee, released the statement below applauding the President’s proposal:

“The President’s budget would take significant steps toward a fairer tax system while also making major investments in our nation’s transportation infrastructure. This is particularly important in Rhode Island, where we have some of the oldest roads and bridges in America and where new construction projects could provide badly needed jobs. I’m also glad to see that the proposed budget would implement several policies I’ve been fighting for in the Senate, including the Buffett Rule for tax fairness and an Automatic IRA program to help millions of Americans save for retirement. From tax credits for working families to paid sick leave, the President’s budget includes many bold proposals to help middle-class families succeed. I look forward to debating the details of these and other provisions in the Budget Committee in the weeks ahead.”