Press Releases

Statement of the Honorable John Conyers, Jr. Markup of H.R. 759, the “Recidivism Risk Reduction Act"

Washington, DC, February 11, 2016

“I commend the Chairman for bringing H.R. 759 before the Committee today.  It is critical, as part of the Committee’s efforts to reform our criminal justice system, that we take action to improve our federal prisons, and I am pleased that today we will consider a bipartisan, substitute amendment to this bill which will establish  a better way of operating our prisons.

“The massive growth of our prison population is a crisis in both human and fiscal terms.  Over the past four decades, the U.S. prison population has skyrocketed. 

“Since the early 1970s, the U.S. prison population has grown from 200,000 to over 2 million persons.  Since 1980, the rate of imprisonment at the federal level has grown by more than 500 percent.  As a result, during that period annual federal spending on prisons increased from 970 million dollars to more than 6.5 billion in inflation-adjusted dollars.

“The Department of Justice’s expenditures on prisons now constitute more than 20 percent of its total outlays.   This is unsustainable. 

“While imprisonment is appropriate and necessary for some offenders, we must address this crisis by making fundamental changes to the federal system. 

“The first and essential step is reforming our sentencing laws to ensure that sentences are not inappropriately and counterproductively long, and this Committee last year approved a bipartisan bill that is a good first step toward doing so. 

“Now, by taking up legislation concerning prison reform, we are taking another important step toward changing our approach to incarceration. 

“For too long, our prisons have simply warehoused individuals whom we know will eventually return to society.  For their benefit and ours, we must adopt a more constructive approach.

“That is why I support establishing a system in federal prisons that will encourage prisoners to participate in programs that will improve their lives, both inside and outside prison, and that will reduce their risk of committing additional offenses when they are released. 

“That is the goal of this legislation.  It simply makes sense that we provide incentives for prisoners to be better prepared to re-enter and be productive members of their communities. 

“I look forward to the discussion and adoption of the substitute amendment which will greatly improve the underlying bill and which will constitute a good first step toward making our federal prison system more humane, more effective and less costly.”