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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 JeffriesDemocrats seek staffer salary boost to compete with K Street Congress tiptoes back to normality post-pandemic White House to Democrats: Get ready to go it alone on infrastructure 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 CollinsLoeffler meets with McConnell amid speculation of another Senate run Georgia agriculture commissioner launches Senate campaign against Warnock Poll shows tight GOP primary for Georgia governor MORE (R-Ga.).

Jeffries said the letter sent out the day before by Democratic Sens. Dick DurbinDick DurbinOvernight Health Care: Takeaways on the Supreme Court's Obamacare decision | COVID-19 cost 5.5 million years of American life | Biden administration investing billions in antiviral pills for COVID-19 COVID-19 long-haulers press Congress for paid family leave Joe Manchin keeps Democrats guessing on sweeping election bill MORE (Ill.), Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisBiden signs Juneteenth bill: 'Great nations don't ignore their most painful moments' Biden's plan for Central American kids is no substitute for asylum State Department bans Guatemalan lawmaker from entering US MORE (Calif.) and Cory BookerCory BookerZombie Tax punishes farmers to fill DC coffers Rand Paul does not support a national minimum wage increase — and it's important to understand why Absences force Senate to punt vote on Biden nominee MORE (N.J.), and Reps. Sheila Jackson LeeSheila Jackson LeeBiden signs Juneteenth bill: 'Great nations don't ignore their most painful moments' Federal government to observe Juneteenth holiday on Friday House approves Juneteenth holiday, sends bill to Biden's desk MORE (Texas) and John LewisJohn LewisJoe Manchin keeps Democrats guessing on sweeping election bill Hundreds in West Virginia protest Manchin's opposition to voting rights legislation Pelosi urges Democrats to pass voting rights bills: 'The clock is ticking on our democracy' 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 GrassleyChuck GrassleyFive takeaways on the Supreme Court's Obamacare decision On The Money: Yellen, Powell brush off inflation fears | Fed keeps rates steady, upgrades growth projections Overnight Health Care: US buying additional 200M Moderna vaccine doses | CureVac's COVID-19 vaccine failed in preliminary trial results | Grassley meets with House Dems on drug prices MORE (R-Iowa) is pushing his own sentencing reform legislation with Durbin.