Recently, the House Appropriations Committee approved a federal spending bill that allocates $29 billion for Department of Justice programs in FY2017.
Updates from Capitol Hill
The Justice Center’s government affairs team works to promote the priorities of CSG members and their partners on Capitol Hill and with the executive branch. Legislative services include educating policymakers on complex criminal justice issues and communicating project findings to legislators that can be applied to policymaking and new practices. The team collaborates with experts from a wide range of disciplines and from all branches of government to ensure that policy and legislative recommendations are practical and based on sound data.
The criminal justice system is overburdened with people who should receive mental health treatment instead of being incarcerated, according to an Air Force chaplain serving in Congress, and the federal government should be helping law enforcement make fundamental changes to resolve the problem. “From my background as a pastor and as an attorney, I have seen the issues with mental health that are crowding our criminal justice system right now,” said Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., the House author of the Comprehensive Justice and Mental Health Act.
Criminal justice reform can be achieved through cooperation, thoughtful legislating and the belief that some issues are bigger than party lines and partisan politics.
From watching his son struggle with bi-polar disorder, to witnessing the treatment of the 1,200 individuals with mental disorders in a Miami-Dade County jail, journalist and author Pete Earley’s experiences have coalesced into a common theme concerning mental health and the criminal justice system.
Corrections reform needs to begin by acknowledging that an individual’s humanity is not diminished by incarceration. As we talk about prison population reduction and recidivism reduction, we need to talk in terms of people – an investment in the people in our custody, in our corrections systems and in our communities.
President Obama recently unveiled his $4.23 trillion budget proposal for 2017, which allocates $29 billion for Department of Justice programs.
Ryan said that bills reported out of the House Judiciary Committee—all of which he says he supports—are expected to get floor time this year. But he did not offer a specific time frame, saying that would be up to House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who manages the schedule.
Nearly all of the 1.6 million individuals incarcerated in the U.S. will be released at some point. Individuals returning to their communities from prison or jail have complex challenges and needs that contribute to the likelihood that they may return to incarceration.
A 2006 Department of Justice study showed that approximately 45 percent of federal inmates, 56 percent of state inmates,and 64 percent of jail inmates displayed symptoms or had a history of a mental disorder; among female inmates in state prisons, the rate was nearly three out of four.
More than 1.3 million youth cycle through delinquency courts each year, 1 which has a significant impact on their development and prospects for long-term success.
Strategies tested in many states show that there are effective ways to address the challenge of containing rising corrections costs while also increasing public safety.
Conventional Senate wisdom says similar bills should be paired together for the best chance of receiving floor time. But lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have decided the country’s criminal justice system needs repair quickly. So to avoid creating an ominously large political target, elected officials are disentangling the massive topic into three separate, and highly overlapping, threads: sentencing reform, mental health and opioid addiction.
Soon the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee will have an opportunity to highlight legislation I’ve introduced — the Mental Health and Safe Communities Act—that takes some of the lessons learned in Bexar County to the national level. Like the reforms implemented 10 years ago, this legislation is a significant step forward that will help the mentally ill get the treatment they need and equip our nation’s law enforcement officials with tools to keep our communities safe.
The House Judiciary Committee passed the Second Chance Reauthorization Act of 2015 by a voice vote. The bill reauthorizes grant funding for both public and private re-entry programs, including academic and vocational education for offenders in prison, jails and juvenile facilities.