APRIL 28, 2016
First the Obama administration managed to reduce prison sentences as a way of ending racial discrimination and now comes an aggressive plan to meet the “criminogenic needs” of felons by providing them with a series of perks the moment they’re incarcerated. This includes an education, employment and life skills training, substance abuse and mental health plans, building family relationships behind bars and a number of other programs to maximize their likelihood of success upon release.
It’s called the Roadmap to Reentry and it’s part of a Department of Justice (DOJ) initiative to reduce recidivism among ex-cons. Work started around five years ago when the administration created a Federal Interagency Reentry Council to reduce recidivism and improve employment, education, housing and health outcomes of ex-cons. The Roadmap to Reentry is being heavily promoted this week because Attorney General Loretta Lynch has determined that this is National Reentry week. The celebration comes on the heels of the nation’s largest mass release of federal prisoners, freed early by the administration as part of the new relaxed drug-crime sentences. The commander-in-chief and his cohorts claimed the old sentences were too harsh and discriminated against poor and minority offenders. Sentencing reform bills are also pending in Congress and are expected to become law sometime this year.
As he’s done with so many other issues, the president took matters into his own hands back in 2010, enacting a measure that for the first time in decades relaxed drug-crime sentences. This severely weakened a decades-old law enacted during the infamous crack cocaine epidemic that ravaged urban communities nationwide in the 1980s. The U.S. Sentencing Commission lowered maximum sentences for drug offenders and made it retroactive so the feds started discharging the first wave of drug felons last fall who were eligible for early release under the softer rules. In all, around 50,000 prisoners are expected to benefit from the new measure, which has outraged federal prosecutors who warn that drug trafficking is inherently violent and therefore the phrase “non-violent drug offenders” is a misnomer. The nation’s prosecutors also caution that reducing prison sentences for drug offenders will weaken their ability to bring dangerous drug traffickers to justice.
To accommodate the ex-cons, the Obama administration has poured huge sums of taxpayer dollars into job and housing programs that can help them stay out of jail since recidivism is quite common. In fact, Judicial Watch reported last month on a crack dealer freed early as part of the mass release of federal inmates who got indicated for fatally stabbing his ex-girlfriend and her two kids in Ohio. Perhaps if this violent criminal had the accommodations provided by the new Roadmap to Reentry he would have stayed out of jail. The new plan takes the administration’s recidivism intervention initiative a step further by starting the process the second a criminal is incarcerated. “Supporting successful reentry is an essential part of the Justice Department’s mission to promote public safety — because by helping individuals return to productive, law-abiding lives, we can reduce crime across the country and make our neighborhoods better places to live,” Lynch states on the agency’s special reentry webpage.
Here’s how it will work; upon incarceration every inmate will be provided with an individualized reentry plan tailored to his or her risk of recidivism and programmatic needs, according to the Reentry Roadmap plan. This means meeting the “criminogenic needs” of every convict in U.S. custody. “While incarcerated, each inmate should be provided education, employment training, life skills, substance abuse, mental health, and other programs that target their criminogenic needs and maximize their likelihood of success upon release.” Each inmate will also be “provided the resources and opportunity to build and maintain family relationships, strengthening the support system available to them upon release.” Lynch has notified governors nationwide to allow cons returning to their communities to exchange their Bureau of Prisons inmate identification card for a state ID. This is critical to a successful “reintegration” because without ID it’s tough to get a job, housing or open a bank account, according to the plan.
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