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WASHINGTON, D.C.—Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) today got a major victory for District of Columbia returning citizens by making them eligible for benefits under a new program for Federal Bureau of Prison (BOP) inmates that provides incentives and rewards for prisoners who participate in recidivism reduction programs. Norton got the bill, the Corrections and Recidivism Reduction Act (H.R. 759), amended during today’s Judiciary Committee markup to make D.C. Code, who are housed by BOP, felons eligible for the program. The committee passed the bill. Norton thanked Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), Ranking Member John Conyers (D-MI), Subcommittee Ranking Member Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), and Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), who introduced the bill, for working with her to amend the bill. Norton is not a member of the Judiciary Committee.
“Including D.C. Code felons in this bipartisan legislation was a major priority for us as we continue to seek ways to help our returning citizens transition back to society and stay out of prison permanently,” Norton said. “When our D.C. residents first entered the BOP system, I had to engage in a major struggle to get them included in BOP’s heralded drug treatment program. Since D.C. Code felons are housed in BOP facilities, they must have equal access to services, particularly these new innovative incentive-based programs that will reduce recidivism.”
Last November, Norton hosted a roundtable featuring D.C. returning citizens and a panel of federal officials to examine ways to ensure assistance for D.C. returning citizens as they transition back to society. Norton has successfully gotten administrative action to provide D.C. Code felons with equal access to other critical services provided to federal offenders. She got D.C. Code felons included in BOP’s highly effective, evidence-based, state-of-the-art 500-hour drug treatment program, with an invaluable built-in incentive of eligibility for a possible one year reduction in the sentences of nonviolent inmates upon successful completion. She has also successfully gotten D.C. juveniles convicted as adults housed within the District until they are adults, and got D.C. Code felons serving six months or less housed within the District.
Some of the major provisions in H.R. 759 include:
o Incentives and rewards for prisoners who participate in recidivism reduction programs, like family visitation and phone calls, time credits (at least 10 days of credits for each 30 days of participation in a recidivism reduction program).
o Designates a “release preparation coordinator” at BOP facilities that determines the release needs for returning citizens and helps them develop a comprehensive release plan, including on housing, employment, and health care.
o Allows BOP to build partnerships with local nonprofits, private groups, and educational institutions to expand recidivism reduction programs.