House Judiciary delays markup of prison reform bill

Party disagreements over provisions in a prison reform bill backed by the White House forced House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) to postpone a markup of the bill that had been scheduled for Wednesday.

“Given the time constraints we have today and a request from members to work out some minor changes, we will postpone consideration of that bill and the juvenile justice legislation,” Goodlatte said in a statement.

“We will consider the prison reform bill at the next mark-up of the Committee which will occur the week of May 7th. I look forward to considering it then.”


The Prison Reform and Redemption Act, co-sponsored by Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) and Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), aims to incentivize prisoners to participate in programs like drug treatment, education classes and vocational skills training while behind bars, programs that have been shown to reduce recidivism rates.

Goodlatte’s decision to postpone the markup comes as House Judiciary Democrats are battling with conservatives on the committee over provisions that have been added to the bill, according to a Democratic Hill source.

The source said the bill as it stands now is not something Democrats on the committee can live with.

Under the bill, certain prisoners who complete such programs would be allowed to finish out their sentence in a halfway house, home confinement or under community supervision.

But the source told The Hill that Republicans on the committee are trying to restrict the programs offered and the number of inmates who can access them.

In a statement Wednesday afternoon, Jeffries said he’s confident the two sides will be able to reach a bipartisan agreement soon and act on the legislation in May.

“In any marathon, the last mile is often the hardest,” he said. “We have made substantial progress on a meaningful prison reform bill, but there are a few unresolved issues that remain.”

A spokesperson for Collins said it makes sense to take more time on negotiations.

“Any thoughtful bipartisan bill involves a lot of conversations among stakeholders,” the spokesperson said. “The Prison Reform and Redemption Act will do a lot of good for a lot of men, women and their communities, and it makes sense to allow a little more time for more conversations to bear legislative fruit in this space so that a strong bill can become a meaningful law.”

The bill has drawn ire from civil and human rights groups, who have long focused their fight for criminal justice reform on measures that reduce mandatory minimum prison sentences.

More than 60 groups led by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights sent a letter earlier this month urging the committee not to pass any prison reform bill that does not include sentencing reform.

“Without changes to sentencing laws that eliminate mandatory minimums, restore judicial discretion, reduce the national prison population, and mitigate disparate impacts on communities of color, H.R. 3356 alone will have little impact,” they said.

Tags Bob Goodlatte Criminal justice reform in the United States Doug Collins Hakeem Jeffries Prison reform

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