DOJ to give prisoners cell phones, bus money

Convicts remanded to halfway houses would have access to cell phones, transportation funding and specialized treatment programs under new requirements proposed Monday.

Attorney General Eric HolderEric Himpton HolderAlarm grows over Trump team's efforts to monitor polls The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden on Trump: 'He'll leave' l GOP laywers brush off Trump's election remarks l Obama's endorsements Obama endorses Warnock in crowded Georgia Senate race MORE said the planned Justice Department actions are designed to help ease inmates transition back into society and cut recidivism. Once imposed, he said the new treatment and resources would reach as many as 30,000 inmates.


“This will ensure consistency and continuity of care between federal prisons and community-based facilities,” Holder said in a weekly video message.  “And it will enhance the programs that help prisoners overcome their past struggles, get on the right path, and stay out of our criminal justice system.”

The proposal is part of the Obama’s “Smart on Crime” initiative, which also includes efforts to cut down on mandatory minimum prison sentences for certain offenders and restore voting rights for ex-convicts who have paid their debts to society.

The proposal announced Monday centers on residential reentry centers (RRC), also known as halfway houses, where inmates spend the last few months of their sentences.

Under the new requirements, all federal halfway houses would have to offer treatment for behavioral issues linked to higher recidivism rates. The Bureau of Prisons (BOP) would set new standards for instructor qualifications, class size and length, and training for all staff at the halfway houses.

The bureau is also making changes to its standard contract for federal halfway houses, adding requirements that they provide public transportation vouchers or assistance to help residents secure employment and allow residents to have cell phones to communicate with potential employers and family members.

The bureau is also planning to expand home confinement by increasing the use of GPS monitoring.

Taken together, the measures would help “tear down unnecessary barriers to opportunity and independence — while building up programs that enable former prisoners to reintegrate into their communities,” Holder said.

The bureau is soliciting public feedback on the plan over the next 30 days before the changes take effect.