Senators Would Aid States That Cut Prison Populations

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Senate Democrats introduced a plan to push back against Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ “tough on crime” policies, The Hill reports. Sens. Cory Booker (NJ) and Richard Blumenthal (CT) introduced the Reverse Mass Incarceration Act of 2017 to incentivize states through grant funding to decrease their prison populations. It’s intended to counter the 1994 federal crime law, which authorized $12.5 billion in grants to offset the costs of incarceration, nearly 50 percent of which was earmarked for states that adopted tough “truth-in-sentencing” laws, which required offenders to serve at least 85 percent of their sentences.

The Booker-Blumenthal bill would provide $20 billion to be divided every three years among eligible states. States would be considered eligible to apply if the total number of people in correctional or detention facilities in the state decreased by 7 percent or more in that three-year period. States must also keep crime rates from increasing by more than 3 percent. The proposal is estimated to reduce the national prison population by 20 percent over 10 years. “We need to change federal incentives so that we reward states that are addressing this crisis and improving community safety, instead of funneling more federal dollars into a broken system,” Booker said. The idea is based on a 2015 proposal from the Brennan Center for Justice.

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