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Congressman Trey Gowdy

Representing the 4th District of South Carolina

Press Releases

Lawmakers Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Reform Federal Prison System

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Washington, February 5, 2015 | comments

Lawmakers Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Reform Federal Prison System
Prison reform legislation would implement evidence-based prison reform strategies at the federal level

WASHINGTON– Today, Republicans Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) and Trey Gowdy (R-SC) joined with Democrats Cedric Richmond (D-LA) and Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) to introduce H.R. 759, Recidivism Risk Reduction Act. This bipartisan legislation uses risk assessment tools to reduce recidivism, lower the crime rate, and reduces the amount of money spent on the federal prison system.


“It’s no longer enough to be tough on crime. We have to be smart on crime as well. States have successfully implemented these strategies. As a result, they’ve seen recidivism drop as well as cost.”


“This bill will help make our federal prison system smarter and more effective. It incentivizes individuals to take steps to reduce their risk of ending up back in federal prison, helping to reduce costs and increase public safety. I thank my colleagues for their hard work on this bipartisan legislation and am honored to work with them to improve our federal prison system.”


“Our criminal justice system is in serious need of reform in many areas,” said Rep. Richmond. "One of those areas is our prison and post-release supervision system. We need a better approach to incarceration that uses effective strategies to reduce recidivism. Ensuring that people get the right programs and activities while in prison is crucial to ensuring they are prepared to succeed after their release. I am pleased to join my colleagues in this bipartisan effort to move us closer to that goal.”


"This is a great first step toward comprehensive prison reform. The current system, which fails to discern between high and low-risk individuals, does not reward those who are committed to correcting their life’s path once their time is served. It should. This new, smarter grading system, in conjunction with the in-depth evaluation of how money is spent, will go a long way toward repairing this broken system.”

H.R. 759 would implement a post-sentencing dynamic risk assessment system to identify an inmate’s risk of recidivism. Then, using evidence-based practices developed by states, effective recidivism reduction programs are identified and utilized. The bill would then provide incentives for inmates to participate in those programs.

Ultimately, inmates could earn credits toward an alternative custody arrangement – such as a halfway house or home confinement – at the end of their term.Such arrangements reduce the cost of housing an inmate in the federal prison system.

The program will be phased in over a five year period. The savings will be reinvested into further expansions of proven recidivism reduction programs during this time. After that, it is anticipated that the savings can be used either for other Justice Department priorities such as FBI agents, US Attorney offices etc., or the savings can be used to help reduce the deficit.

Similar programs have found success on a state level in several states including Texas, Oklahoma, Ohio, and North Carolina.

In addition, Reps. Chaffetz and Jefferies introduced HR 760, the Bureau of Corrections Renaming Act. This bipartisan legislation would simply rename the “Bureau of Prisons” – under the jurisdiction of the Department of Justice – the “Bureau of Corrections.” Over ninety percent of all federal prisoners will eventually be released. This small change will help the Bureau remember that its mission is not just to house people, but also to rehabilitate prisoners such that they are productive members of society when released. Forty-eight states throughout the country use the word ‘corrections’ in describing their prisons.

Post-Sentencing Risk Assessment System

  • The Attorney General is directed to consult with appropriate federal agencies and stakeholders to design, develop, implement, and regularly upgrade an actuarial Post Sentencing Risk Assessment System which shall include one or more comprehensive risk and needs assessment tools, which shall be peer-reviewed and validated, and periodically re-validated, on the federal prison population for the specific purposes of this Act.
  • Prisoners will be divided into high, moderate, or low risks of recidivism.
  • Prisoners will be periodically re-evaluated and have the opportunity to progress to low risk of recidivism. Prisoners who misbehave can move the other way – i.e. from low to moderate risk of recidivism.
  • Bureau of Prisons shall incentivize prisoners to reduce their individual risk of recidivism by participating in and completing recidivism reduction programs.
  • Prisoners who have committed more serious crimes such as child abuse, terrorism, and violent felonies, are not eligible for the program.
  • If a prisoner is successfully participating in and/or completing programs, holding a prison job, participating in educational courses, participating in faith-based services and courses, or delivering programs or faith-based services and courses to other prisoners, the prisoner can earn :
  1. Low risk – 30 days’ time credits per month
  2. Moderate risk – 15 days’ time credits per month

  3. High risk – 8 days’ time credits per month

    • Low risk prisoners will be eligible for consideration for alternative custody such as halfway houses, home confinement, ankle bracelets, etc.
    1. This is not automatic – it must be reviewed and approved by the prison warden, the chief probation officer in the relevant federal district, and a judge in the relevant federal district.
    2. This is not a reduction in sentence – prisoners are not being released and nothing in this Act affects Truth in Sentencing requirements that prisoners complete at least 85% of their sentence.
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