Sunday, September 6, 2015

Virginia Congressman Bobby Scott’s RTD Editorial on the Safe, Accountable, Fair and Effective (SAFE) Justice Reinvestment Act (HR2944) Sounds Like a Winner But He Fails to Say It Excludes RSO’s

Nice editorial (see below) by Congressman Scott……….BUT HR2944 EXCLUDES RSO’s, a fact that I raised to Congressman Scott when I spoke to him at the August 27 Virginia Parole Commission meeting in Richmond. Just like the long list (including but not limited to HR1854 , HR759 , S675 ,  HR1672 , S467) of other Federal Recidivism-Reduction, Successful Re-entry or Sentence Reduction Bills. NO Registered Sex Offenders (RSO’s), felony OR misdemeanor, juvenile OR adult! 

Per HR2944

                (1) the defendant— 

                (A) does not have a criminal history category higher than I after any downward departure under the sentencing guidelines; 

                (B) does not have— 

                (II) a sex offense (as defined in section 111 of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006); 

                b) Ineligibility and procedure 

                (3) A Federal sex offense, as described in section 111 of the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (42 U.S.C. 16911).
Why do we allow the continued prejudice, hate and vengeance to be applied to those listed on our public registries?  

They have paid their court-ordered debt to society just like any other former-offender. They have attended the court-ordered treatments; they have paid their court fines and restitution. They have completed or are still under Probation supervision and they continue to comply with the demands of the registry, otherwise they’d be wanted or in prison.
Americans....Virginians are allowed to openly hate them, to call them monsters, pedophiles, perverts and predators because they are supposedly the most heinous people amongst us. They don’t deserve a second-chance, they can not be rehabilitated, no penance will ever be enough and we must separate them, label them and demean them. That includes but is not limited to taking away their earned Veterans’ benefits, taking away HUD housing, taking away SNAP benefits (food stamps), taking away Small Business Loans and prohibiting Medicare from covering their erectile dysfunction medication, even if they are married.
Registered Sex Offenders are the lepers of America and we just keep piling on more prohibitions and more restrictions upon them because no one has the courage to say, enough. If someone in authority were to question the myth-based, hate-driven laws then they might be considered a pervert or a secret pedophile.

When promoting legislation (State or Federal) the Delegates, Governors, Congress members and Senators should be required to list the exceptions and the collateral consequences of their bill. They know how their bill will be applied and what bad results will occur. Just like an advertisement for prescription drugs must list the side effects, possible diseases and those who should not take it. That way no one gets hurt by thinking they qualified only to learn after the fact, they don’t. 

If our elected officials are going to continue to single-out and target America’s 850,000+ RSO’s at every turn at least own it and say upfront Registered Sex Offenders and the families they are trying to support and provide for aren’t worthy of any support, benefit, second-chance or forgiveness. 

If we’re going to allow cruel and lifelong punishments that trickle down to family members that prevent their success then stop hiding that detail from the public.  

Mary Devoy 

Scott: It's time for criminal justice reform, September 5, 2015
By Bobby Scott

For far too long, politicians across the nation have chosen to play politics with crime policy by enacting so-called “tough on crime” slogans such as “three strikes and you’re out” or rhymes like “you do the adult crime, you do the adult time.” As appealing as these soundbites may be, they have done nothing to reduce crime — but they have overloaded our prisons. 

Research by The Pew Charitable Trusts shows that between 1980 and 2013 our federal prison population skyrocketed from 24,000 to 215,000. The United States now has around 5 percent of the world’s population, yet 25 percent of the world’s prisoners. It has gotten to the point that some recent studies have concluded that our level of over-incarceration is actually counterproductive, meaning that it destroys so many families, creates so many people with felony records and wastes so much taxpayer money that it generates more crime than it stops. 

The driving force behind our crime policy should be an approach that delivers the most public safety at the lowest taxpayer cost. That’s a goal that all of us — Republican and Democrat — can and should support. 

Reforms implemented by the states over the past decade prove that we can reduce crime and save money. More than 30 states have reduced both their crime and imprisonment rates by adopting wide-ranging, evidence-based reforms that protect public safety, while reining in prison costs. Their successful formula focuses expensive prison space on violent and career criminals, while strengthening community supervision and alternative sanctions for lower-level offenders. 

Over an 18-month period, I co-chaired the House Judiciary Committee’s Over-Criminalization Task Force with Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.). Our task force reviewed the federal criminal code, researched the contributors to the nation’s mass incarceration problem and made recommendations for improvements with input from key stakeholders, academics and expert organizations. 

Based on the task force’s work, Sensenbrenner and I introduced the Safe, Accountable, Fair and Effective (SAFE) Justice Reinvestment Act in June. Our bill tackles the major drivers of the federal prison population at the front and back ends and resolves underlying systemic issues. 

Our bill encourages community leaders to identify a community’s needs with regard to youth and gang violence prevention and to develop a plan to redirect young people from what the Children’s Defense Fund calls the “Cradle to Prison” pipeline into a “Cradle to College and Career” pipeline, so that many of our youth never get into trouble to begin with. The bill also includes funding for community-based policing, de-escalation and mental health training, body cameras and to eliminate the DNA analysis backlog. 

For those who are arrested, our bill includes reforms to pretrial detention to decrease unnecessary disruption to housing, employment and community ties. Then, once the youth comes to court, our bill creates drug, mental health, substance abuse, and veterans court programs to divert non-violent, low-level, first-time federal offenders from prison. Providing these offenders the help they require in addressing the underlying issues that led them to violate the law improves outcomes, reduces recidivism and saves money. 

Our bill also reforms federal drug mandatory minimum sentences, by narrowing their application to the leaders and kingpins for whom they were originally intended, not the lowest-level, nonviolent offenders who have been receiving them. 

Once an individual is sentenced to prison, our bill incentivizes inmates to complete educational, vocational, substance abuse, mental health and transitional programs to improve the chances of a successful transition back into the community. 

We hold halfway houses accountable by measuring the recidivism rates of those housed there after prison. The bill also avoids unnecessary incarceration for nonviolent technical parole violations, which can disrupt any re-entry progress toward securing employment and housing. 

The billions that will be saved from reductions in incarceration will be reinvested to pay for the provisions of the bill that require funding. 

States have shown that these reforms work and Congress can write a similar success story on a national scale. The SAFE Justice Act has garnered 40 bipartisan cosponsors, evenly split between Democrats and Republicans, because it reduces crime and saves money. It has also attracted endorsements from groups across the political spectrum, including the NAACP, the American Civil Liberties Union, Right on Crime, Koch Industries, Freedom Works, the American Legislative Exchange Council, the Police Foundation, the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives and Families Against Mandatory Minimums. 

Passage of the SAFE Justice Act will invest in crime prevention, reduce overreach in the federal criminal code, improve policing, reform sentencing, improve rehabilitation in our prisons and will reform our federal criminal justice system into one that is safe, accountable, fair and effective. We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to fix our broken criminal justice system. I hope Congress will not squander it.