Advocacy Groups Urge Congress To Reduce U.S. Prison Population, Spending


A coalition of civil rights, legal, religious, and criminal justice
organizations are opposing the Obama administration’s proposal to increase the
budget for U.S. Bureau of Prisons. Testifying yesterday to the House
Appropriations subcommittee that handles the Justice Department budget, Bill
Mefford of the United Methodist Church said, “Overcrowding plagues the federal
system, operating at 38 percent over rated capacity, but we cannot build ourselves out of this crisis. Disproportionate
investment in prison expansion has diminished attention to viable and fiscally sound alternatives to
prison and weakened the concept that prison should be the sanction of last resort.”

Mefford urged the committee, before it votes on the prison bureau’s budget for
the next fiscal year, to ask the agency “to demonstrate that it has maximized
cost savings and sentence reduction opportunities. The bureau has not done so
in the current budget justification.” Mefford called on the committee “to use
its influence to urge those members of Congress who oversee the authorization
of federal sentencing policy to implement modest and innovative reforms that
follow the lead of many state lawmakers seeking to reduce corrections systems
while maintaining public safety.” He gave a variety of specific suggestions on
ways to reduce the federal prison population

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