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 JeffriesPelosi says House will review Senate coronavirus stimulus package Pelosi says House will draft its own coronavirus funding bill Senate closes in on trillion-dollar coronavirus stimulus bill 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 CollinsSunday shows preview: As coronavirus spreads in the U.S., officials from each sector of public life weigh in Justice IG pours fuel on looming fight over FISA court Loeffler traded .4M in stocks as Congress responded to coronavirus pandemic MORE (R-Ga.).

Jeffries said the letter sent out the day before by Democratic Sens. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinDemocrats ask EPA, Interior to pause rulemaking amid coronavirus Senator Tom Coburn's government oversight legacy Democratic lawmakers demand government stop deporting unaccompanied children MORE (Ill.), Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisEnlisting tech to fight coronavirus sparks surveillance fears Biden says his administration could help grow 'bench' for Democrats Is Texas learning to love ObamaCare? MORE (Calif.) and Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerEnlisting tech to fight coronavirus sparks surveillance fears Democrats urge administration to automatically issue coronavirus checks to more people Democrats ask EPA, Interior to pause rulemaking amid coronavirus MORE (N.J.), and Reps. Sheila Jackson LeeSheila Jackson LeeTexas House Dems ask governor to issue stay-at-home order Lobbying world House approves bill banning flavored tobacco products MORE (Texas) and John LewisJohn LewisGeorgia makes it easier to get mail-in ballots after delaying primary Kennedy said DSCC prevented him from helping Democrats flip GOP seats Pelosi stands firm amid calls to close Capitol 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 GrassleyBurr says intelligence watchdog should be 'independent' after inspector general firing Lawmakers press IRS to get coronavirus checks to seniors Pelosi floats undoing SALT deduction cap in next coronavirus bill MORE (R-Iowa) is pushing his own sentencing reform legislation with Durbin.