The Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday advanced a bill intended to reduce recidivism of federal inmates and help them transition back into the communities. The vote was 15-2, with Sens. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) opposing it, reports MainJustice. Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) voted “present” and said he was concerned that the bill’s methods to identify inmates with a lower risk of reoffending could exacerbate racial and socio-economic disparities in the prison system.
Leahy also was critical of the growing federal prison population, noting that almost one-third of the Justice Department’s $27.4 billion budget request for the year starting October 1 would go to prisons instead of funding prosecutors and law enforcement. “Because of the money that’s going into prisons … there’s fewer resources for federal prosecutors, for drug agents, for FBI agents. There’s less support for state and local law enforcement,” Leahy said. The bill approved by the committee is co-sponsored by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), who said it would call for computer-based tools to judge an inmate’s likelihood of reoffending but it would also call for human oversight.