Colson Task Force Leaders Decry “Bloated” U.S. Prisons, Call For Action


Leaders of the new Colson Task Force have assailed the “bloated federal prison system, which continues to operate beyond capacity, endangering staff and inmates alike and costing taxpayers nearly $7 billion in fiscal 2014.” Writing in Roll Call, former Congressmen J.C. Watts (R-OK) and Alan Mollohan (D-WVA) say that although the federal prison population has dropped slightly for the first time in more than three decades, “we are far from declaring victory.” The nine-member task force, which Watts and Mollohan describe as “a bipartisan blue-ribbon panel comprised of some of the best minds and most experienced criminal justice practitioners in the country,” will spend the next year studying what can be done to improve the federal corrections system. The task force was announced yesterday in the U.S. Capitol.

Watts and Mollohan write that, “The severity of the problem requires immediate action, and we must act swiftly and prudently to identify fact-based solutions that will reverse the tide of inmates, eliminate spending on unnecessary incarceration, and ensure that prisoners receive the programming they need to lower their odds of reoffending. To get this done right, we can draw from a growing body of evidence in the states.” They add, “While many Americans bemoan the partisan acrimony and political division in Washington, the climate inside the beltway is ripe for bipartisan prison reform.” Other members are former U.S. Attorney David Iglesias of New Mexico; Jim Liske, president and CEO of the Prison Fellowship Ministries; former Georgia Rep. Jay Neal, executive director of the Georgia Governor’s Office of Transition, Support and Re-Entry, Laurie Robinson of George Mason University, former Assistant Attorney General for the Office Justice Programs; Cynthia W. Roseberry, project manager of Clemency Project 2014 and former executive director of the Federal Defenders of the Middle District of Georgia; former U.S. District Judge Ricardo M. Urbina of Washington, D.C., and John E. Wetzel, Pennsylvania Secretary of Corrections.

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