Booker, Blumenthal introduce bill to incentivize prison population reduction

Booker, Blumenthal introduce bill to incentivize prison population reduction
© Greg Nash

Sens. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerThe Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by AdvaMed - House panel expected to approve impeachment articles Thursday Julián Castro jabs ICE: 'Delete your account' Booker campaign unveils bilingual training program for Nevada caucus MORE (D-N.J.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) as well as Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.) on Tuesday introduced a bill to incentivize states to reduce their prison populations. 

The Reverse Mass Incarceration Act would give the Justice Department approximately $2 billion each year for 10 years to give out to states that reduce their incarceration rates without significant changes to their crime rates. 

States would become eligible for the awards if they reduce their prison populations by 7 percent over a three-year period without increasing their crime rates by more than 3 percent.

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The grant funds be used for “evidence-based programs to reduce crime rates and incarceration,” the bill said. It was modeled by recommendations made by New York University's Brennan Center for Justice, according to information sent to The Hill by Cárdenas's office. 

"When a nation has 5 percent of the world's population, but 25 percent of its incarcerated people, there is something profoundly wrong with its criminal justice system," Booker, a 2020 presidential candidate, said in a statement. "The Reverse Mass Incarceration Act would help move our criminal justice system away from an emphasis on over-incarceration and towards an evidence-based approach focused on programs that are proven to reduce crime and recidivism."

Cárdenas said in the statement that he preferred "smart on crime" policies to "tough on crime" policies. 

"It is time to answer those costly policies with new ones that unravel the damage done, match  our nation’s commitment to criminal justice reform, and importantly invest in the safety and prosperity of every community member," he said. 

The Brennan Center endorsed the legislation. 

“A vast majority of people in prison in the United States are incarcerated through state systems, and this legislation is one of the most effective ways the federal government can help end mass incarceration,” said Inimai Chettiar, director of the Brennan Center’s justice program, in a statement. 

Booker, among two dozen people vying for the Democratic Party's 2020 presidential nomination, has been outspoken on issues of prison reform and has sponsored a series of criminal justice reform bills.