November 07, 2013

Need for prison reform is evident

The director of the Bureau of Prisons, Charles E. Samuels, Jr., testified yesterday (Nov. 6) before the Senate Judiciary Committee during a hearing about cost-effective strategies for reducing recidivism.

The unsustainable nature of the current federal prison system was a constant theme. Samuels spoke about overcapacity, prison conditions and safety concerns. Senators from both sides of the aisle expressed their desire to work toward reform. Our nation’s criminal justice system is broken. Changes are clearly needed to the entire system.  It is great that all sides are on the same page but, now what?

The need for significant reform is vast and evident. Samuels testified that on average it costs $29,000 a year to house an inmate. He admitted triple bunking inmates is common due to space constraints. He stated staff safety is a major concern, as they try to do more with less. 

One shocking exchange during the hearing came when Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), raised a vital issue - the handling of the growing number of women in the criminal justice system. Based on Director Samuels’s response, it was clear he did not know much about the female inmate. The reality is 80 to 95 percent of women in the criminal justice system have some history of domestic or sexual abuse. Substance abuse is prevalent among 80 percent of female inmates, and many havereproductive health needs.  Female inmates are also more likely to have children and are less likely to be in the criminal justice system for violent crime. Programs and assessments should be tailored to their gender specific needs.

Read the entire piece at: http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/judicial/189518-need-for-prison-reform-is-evident


By:  Danyelle Soloman
Source: The Hill