Legislation to establish a hybrid system of parole
and good time allowances for federal prisoners.
IMAGINE what 4 BILLION dollars can do for the public!!
If the Federal Government can save over 4 Billion (Four Thousand Millions) by making some policy changes, that enormous amount of money can be spend on feeding the millions of hungry, providing shelter to thousands of homeless, paying thousands of student loans, and creating jobs by hundreds of thousands. Unfortunately, this money is wasted in ways you don't know and could not even imagine.
SO WHAT IS THE PROBLEM WITH THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT?
The FY 2013 Budget requests a total of $8.6 billion for federal prisons and detention, and 4.5 percent increase over the FY 2012 appropriated level. Compare this staggering $8.6 BILLION budget for Prisons to the following items for Education and Housing in the FY 2013 Budget: (all these items below don't even add up to even a Billion dollars)
$150 million to continue transformative investments in high-poverty neighborhoods where distressed HUD -assisted public and privately owned housing is located.
$100 million for more communities to develop comprehensive housing and transportation plans that result in sustainable development increased transit-accessible housing, lower energy costs for consumers, and reduced air pollution that impacts public health and the climate.
$154 million to expand the supply of affordable housing to seniors and persons with disabilities.
$50 million to pilot an expansion of the successful Jobs-Plus demonstration
$260 million in funding for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) programs.
$30 million evidenced-based math education initiative to be jointly administered with a comparable program at the National Science Foundation.
$80 million for recruiting and preparing 100,000 high-quality STEM teachers over the next 10 years.
$12 million for Institute of Education Sciences research and development and sustained funding for investing in innovation.
Over the past 40 years, criminal justice policy in the U.S. was shaped by the belief that the best way to protect the public was to put more people in prison. Offenders, the reasoning went, should spend longer and longer time behind bars. We should realize that the cost to house an inmate for 12 months is almost $40,000.00, which rise significantly for all inmates over age 60 and nearly double or quadruple for inmates with medical issues. Compared to that, probation or supervised release costs about $7 a day per person.
According to the data from Bureau of Justice Statistics, state and local criminal justice spending rose from approximately $32.6 billion in 1982 to $186.2 billion in 2006. Federal criminal justice spending increased even more dramatically, from approximately $4.2 billion in 1982 to $41 billion in 2006. The Federal Prison budget had doubled since 2000, to $6.6 billion with more than 218,000 federal offenders behind bars and 105,500 on supervised release. Overall, the BOP's 115 institutions are about 40 percent above rated capacity. The BOP is now the largest police force in the United States, with more than 37,000 employees. On top of that, the AFGE.org, BOP's labor union, is battling on the Hill to add 15,000 correctional officers because of the concerns due to overcrowding of prisons.
In the era of bitter partisanship and division, one point we can all agree on is that building additional bed space in prisons will not resolve the systemic issues of the prison system. The increase in the number of inmates in past few decades was due to mostly non-violent drug related offenses. And our past corrections policies, based on increasingly harsh and punitive measures have created a deadly cycle of incarceration that drains government resources and dissolves the social and economic well-being of entire communities. We came to the realization that prison was often exacerbating the very problems that it was intended to solve. Instead of automatically shoveling larger and larger amounts to prisons, alternative ways should be adopted to avert looming fiscal catastrophe.
NOW THAT WE HAVE YOUR ATTENTION, Here's the 50-50 Problem!
THE FIRST 50% PROBLEM WHICH CONSUMES $4 BILLION OF TAX-PAYERS MONEY
More than 50 PERCENT of federal prisoners are convicted of NON-VIOLENT drug offenses. But contrary to popular perception, violent crime was not responsible for six-fold increase of incarcerated population in the United States from 1980 to 2012. The truth is that violent crime rates had been constantly declining over those decades. The prison population was increased primarily by public policy changes causing more prison sentences and lengthening time served, e.g. through mandatory minimum sentencing, "three strikes" laws, and reductions in the availability of parole or early release. These policies were championed as protecting the public from serious and violent offenders, but instead yielded high rates of confinement for nonviolent offenders.
Nearly three quarters of new admissions to prisons are now convicted of nonviolent crimes. Perhaps the single greatest force behind the growth of the prison population has been the national "war on drugs." The number of incarcerated drug offenders has increased TWELVEFOLD since 1980. Over the past four decades, the U.S. has spent more than $1 trillion fighting the war on drugs.
Of course, great caution must be shown in the reintegration into society of violent criminals. But the objective of the penal system must be to return those capable of functioning licitly in society as quickly as practical, allowing also for straight punitive or retributive penalties, but not for mindless vengeance.
Prisoners with drug sentences and nonviolent histories pose no safety risk. The costs to society can be greatly reduced if the Congress and Federal Government re-instate Parole and increased Good-time allowances and expand alternative sentencing programs. It would be hypocritical for Congress not to support a measure that not only would save taxpayers millions or potentially billions of dollars each year, but also rightly recognizing that addiction is a disease that warrants treatment. While prison reform has taken a back seat to other economic issues, it could well be part of the solution. It's time to end the hypocrisy and the mandatory minimums and help non violent offenders become contributing citizens again.
THE SECOND 50% PROBLEM WHICH CONSUMES $4 BILLION OF TAX-PAYERS MONEY
Non citizens now are approximately half of the overall population of federal offenders; see 2010 Sourcebook of Federal Sentencing Statistics, Table 9 (showing that 47.5 of federal offenders in fiscal year 2010 were non citizens). Mexico contributes the highest proportion of non-U.S. citizen inmates at around 20 percent with most convicted of immigration offenses. Non citizen inmates are almost always refused for international transfers to serve their prison terms in their native countries. This places enormous burdens on U.S. taxpayers as the cost to housing non citizen offenders is increased.
One cannot see the social utility in forcing foreign nationals, without any prospects for becoming a productive member of American society, to serve lengthy prison sentence. The foreseeable costs to society of incarceration of unwanted foreign nationals in federal prisons exceed $40,000 PER YEAR. Further, the non-rehabilitation purposes of incarceration- retribution, deterrence and incapacitation - would all be more than adequately served by a far shorter sentence or immediate deportation and not by providing air-conditioned housing, three hot meals and recreation facilities. While the rehabilitation theory reasons that through imprisonment, treatment, and training a change can be effected in the criminal mindset, the rationale for imprisonment is inapplicable to the incarcerated non-citizens who will be deported immediately after the release and would not apply any rehabilitative treatment in America's benefit.
Some may argue that incarceration of non-citizens serves the purpose of deterrence and prevents the commission of future crimes by other individuals by setting out, as an example, the punishment for the present crime. But there can be no plausible argument for contending that the punishment or lack thereof, meted out on a non-citizen inmate would have any general deterrent effect on other non-citizens disposed to commit similar crimes. The prevention theory, aimed at deterring the specific criminal, rather than society, by requiring the non-citizens to endure a hardship which he/she will want to avoid in the future, is also inapplicable as to non-citizens as almost all of them enjoy better living conditions than living free in their native countries.
Finally, the oldest theory of punishment, retribution, seeks punishment as a means of obtaining revenge or retaliation for the crime committed. As with the other theories of punishment, we can realize that retributive theory fails to provide a basis for housing and feeding non-citizen inmates. It is impossible to obtain retribution from non-citizens, who are often unable to appreciate the connection between their incarceration and prior criminal acts. A number of non-citizens convicted for illegal reentry offenses do not even feel that they have committed a crime as they feel that they have crossed the borders just to seek better opportunities in their life.
Time has now come that we recognize that while some Americans have to choose between eating cat food, buying prescription drugs or heating their homes, the non-citizens should not be allowed to suck the limited resources and U.S. Taxpayer's money with a $40,000 costly housing, hot meals and full medical benefits provided in Federal Prisons
Our economic crisis is due in part to our penal system where so many first time non violent offenders are given Draconian sentences and no means to redeem themselves. Once in the prison system, they have no reason to desire rehabilitation or work towards early release.
We can change the way the judicial system enforces punishment and how inmates serve their time in a way that would benefit both the inmate and society. We should enact smarter sentencing and parole practices, increased access to the alternative sentencing programs, and establishing a comprehensive program to reduce recidivism and ensure the successful reentry and reintegration of offenders into the community. We should put into practice a new wave of thinking based on science and evidence based programs designed to successfully rehabilitate and reintegrate non violent offenders into the community with a real chance to live crime free.
Now is the time we should have a starting point for safer, healthier communities. Many states experiencing a prison population crisis have successfully enacted similar reforms. Even states than once endorsed the most severe punishments, such as New York and Texas, have significantly reduced both crime and imprisonment rates through the use of parole, alternative sentencing and reentry programs.
The United States Congress is urged to enact legislation such as parole or increased good-time which will generate significant and lasting cost savings, estimated at almost $4 billion per year. This comes at a critical moment when America's finances are increasingly strained and our national debt is skyrocketing. Adding salt to the wound, a correction spending now exceeds spending for higher education in America.
Fortunately, the solution is a simple one. All the Congress has to do is to reinstate the federal laws which existed before 1984. These are:
18 US Code Sections 4161-4166 (which allows increased
18 US Code Sections 4201-4218 (which allows for Parole Supervision)
The Parole laws also include a Section 4212, which directs that an "alien prisoner" be ordered "DEPORTED and remain outside the United States." Moreover, when the Congress abolished Federal Parole in 1984, the Parole Commission was NEVER abolished. Its period was extended time and again, and till date, the parole commission has been on Federal Government's payroll. By reinstating parole, there should be no extra operating costs of the Commission and tax-payers money could be utilized more efficiently.
Without any prison reform, the public is being shortchanged. Past crimes should not be automatically conflated with current risk. At some point in a prisoner's life, parole supervision and perhaps restrictions on movement (e.g. home confinement) may suffice as a cost effective and sensible punishment.
Thank you for your time.