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 JeffriesBipartisan think tank to honor lawmakers who offer 'a positive tenor' GOP leader needles Dems on anti-Semitism resolution Dems under fire put brakes on Omar resolution 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 CollinsLawmakers urge tech to root out extremism after New Zealand Nearly 40 advocacy groups press lawmakers over NSA call records program Trump: Strzok transcript 'devastating' for FBI, DOJ, CIA MORE (R-Ga.).

Jeffries said the letter sent out the day before by Democratic Sens. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinSenate Dems petition Saudi king to release dissidents, US citizen GOP moves to rein in president's emergency powers Senate votes to confirm Neomi Rao to appeals court MORE (Ill.), Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisStrategist says Trump is 'retreating' from talking about foreign policy Bannon says an O'Rourke-Harris ticket poses the greatest threat to Trump in 2020 Trump has lost support from male voters since shutdown, analysis shows MORE (Calif.) and Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerBannon says an O'Rourke-Harris ticket poses the greatest threat to Trump in 2020 Jared Kushner's brother made last-minute donation to Beto O'Rourke Senate campaign Biden advisers mull launch naming Abrams as running mate: report MORE (N.J.), and Reps. Sheila Jackson LeeSheila Jackson LeeThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump attacks on McCain rattle GOP senators Harris to make hard Texas push, recruits key O'Rourke aide: report Trio of NFL players intern on Capitol Hill as part of league program MORE (Texas) and John LewisJohn Lewis Civil rights icon John Lewis after New Zealand mosque attacks: 'We cannot sow seeds of hatred' Why are Trump and Congress avoiding comprehensive immigration reform? Together, we carry on the age-old struggle for justice for all 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 GrassleyDrug prices are a matter of life and death Senate panel to hear from pharmacy middlemen on drug prices Seniors win big with Trump rebate rule  MORE (R-Iowa) is pushing his own sentencing reform legislation with Durbin.