Dem lawmaker spars with own party over prison reform

Dem lawmaker spars with own party over prison reform
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Rep. Hakeem JeffriesHakeem Sekou JeffriesConnect Beltway to America to get federal criminal justice reform done Dem lawmaker labels Trump the ‘Grand Wizard of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave’ Dem lawmaker sees 'probability’ that next Speaker will be black MORE (N.Y.) on Friday hit back at his fellow Democrats for their opposition to the bipartisan prison reform bill he’s co-sponsoring with Rep. Doug CollinsDouglas (Doug) Allen CollinsConnect Beltway to America to get federal criminal justice reform done Top Koch network officials vent frustration with White House, GOP-led Congress Paul Ryan would be ‘perfect fit’ to lead AEI, Republicans say MORE (R-Ga.).

Jeffries said the letter sent out the day before by Democratic Sens. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinSentencing reform deal heats up, pitting Trump against reliable allies The Hill's 12:30 Report Democrats question if Kavanaugh lied about work on terrorism policy MORE (Ill.), Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisSentencing reform deal heats up, pitting Trump against reliable allies Bernie Sanders socialism moves to Democratic mainstream Overnight Health Care: Arkansas Medicaid work rules could cost thousands coverage | Record number of overdose deaths in 2017 | Dems demand immediate reunification of separated children MORE (Calif.) and Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerSentencing reform deal heats up, pitting Trump against reliable allies Bernie Sanders socialism moves to Democratic mainstream Democrats embracing socialism is dangerous for America MORE (N.J.), and Reps. Sheila Jackson LeeSheila Jackson LeeVAWA reauthorization: Even if the Democrats lose, they win? Dems introduce measure to reauthorize Violence Against Women Act Overnight Defense: Defense spending bill amendments target hot-button issues | Space Force already facing hurdles | Senators voice 'deep' concerns at using military lawyers on immigration cases MORE (Texas) and John LewisJohn LewisTrump, Obamas and Clintons among leaders mourning Aretha Franklin Obama to receive RFK Human Rights award Bill Russell: Being criticized by Trump is the 'biggest compliment you can get' MORE (Ga.) was “riddled with factual inaccuracies and deliberately attempts to undermine the nationwide prison reform effort.”

The Democrats on Thursday called the legislation a step backwards, saying dire staffing and funding shortages make implementation untenable. They also argued the bill will preclude some inmates from participating in the very recidivism reduction programming it aims to incentivize.

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In a seven-page “Dear Colleague” letter of his own, Jeffries called that claim unequivocally false.

“The First Step Act does not prohibit anyone from participating in recidivism reduction programming,” he said.

Democrats and criminal justice reform groups are divided over the proposal, which the House Judiciary Committee voted last week to send to the floor for a vote.

The legislation provides the Bureau of Prisons with $50 million annually for five years to offer prison programs that reduce recidivism.

Under the bill, prisoners would be allowed to earn time credits for completing programs such as education and job training. Inmates could then use those credits to serve the remaining days of their sentence in a halfway house or home confinement.

Democrats opposing the bill say meaningful criminal justice reform must include provisions that reduce mandatory minimum prison sentences.

In his letter Friday, Jeffries slammed his colleagues for their stance.

“We have a Republican President. Republicans control the House of Representatives and the Senate. While the Senate authors of the opposition letter support the all or nothing approach, the Majority Leader apparently does not. Those are the facts,” he said.

“For this reason, it is not clear how exactly the opposition proposes to achieve comprehensive criminal justice reform without first considering the bipartisan prison reform legislation pending in the House.”

At a White House summit on prison reform on Friday, President Trump told lawmakers to work out their differences and pass legislation.

“As we speak, legislation is working through Congress to reform our federal prisons. My administration strongly supports these efforts and I urge the House and Senate to get together ... work out their differences, get a bill to my desk. I will sign it," he said. 

A Democratic aide told The Hill on Friday the bill is expected to get a vote in the House next week. The bill, however, seems unlikely to get enough Democratic support to pass the Senate. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyFive things to know about Bruce Ohr, the DOJ official under fire from Trump Democrats question if Kavanaugh lied about work on terrorism policy The Hill's Morning Report: Dems have a majority in the Senate (this week) MORE (R-Iowa) is pushing his own sentencing reform legislation with Durbin.