Cornyn, Whitehouse Push Moderate Prison Reform To Avoid “Horton” Talk


Two Senate Judiciary Committee members again are pushing a prison reform bill they say will achieve a major goal of criminal justice reformers: reducing the size of the federal inmate population, The Hill reports. Sens. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) have proposed the Corrections Oversight, Recidivism Reduction, and Eliminating Costs for Taxpayers in Our National System (CORRECTIONS) Act. The law is meant to reduce the number of people, now just over 210,000, incarcerated in federal prisons.

The package proposed by the senators takes a more moderate approach to reducing prison populations than other bills that would reduce mandatory sentences. It supports programs that help prisoners avoid returning to crime after being released. Prisoners would undergo a risk assessment to determine whether they present a low, medium or high risk of committing another offense. “We want to go forward with what’s passable without subjecting the bill to the kind of Willie Horton-type critique that it might receive,” Whitehouse said of the bill’s not covering some types of prisoners. Horton, who committed rape after being released on a furlough from a Massachusetts prison, was a factor in Michael Dukakis’ defeat in the 1988 presidential election.

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