Bipartisan duo introduce prison reform bill

Reps. Chaka Fattah (D-Pa.) and Frank Wolf (R-Va.) have introduced legislation to overhaul the national criminal justice system.

It is a companion measure to the legislation introduced by Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.), two freshmen with national ambitions, earlier this month.

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Fattah and Wolf said the reforms proposed in their bill would help reduce recidivism among criminals.

"Our criminal justice system is broken; hindered by out-of-date laws that have perpetuated an unnecessary cycle of incarceration — especially among youth and nonviolent offenders," Fattah said in a statement.

"We need to find consensus on the bipartisan reforms necessary to curb the unsustainable growth in corrections and employ more effective tools to reduce recidivism and increase public safety," Wolf said.

Among other provisions, the measure would end solitary confinement for juvenile offenders, except for extreme circumstances where it's necessary to protect the detainee or others.

It would also allow people convicted of nonviolent crimes to petition to seal their criminal records, which Fattah and Wolf said would help them find jobs after being released from prison. Additionally, juvenile records could be sealed for crimes committed before age 15.

"By addressing many of the obstacles keeping these populations from successfully re-entering society, this bill takes best-practices in justice reinvestment and works towards a comprehensive reform of our justice system," Fattah said.

The measure would further end the ban on food stamp benefits for low-level drug offenders who have served their time and enrolled in a treatment program for substance abuse.

 

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