Charles Colson Task Force on Federal Corrections (CCTF) (Washington, DC)
"The federal prison population has grown by 750 percent since 1980, resulting in rapidly increasing expenditures for incarceration and dangerous overcrowding. In response, Congress created the Charles Colson Task Force on Federal Corrections to examine trends in correctional growth and develop practical, data-driven policy responses" (p. 1). The biggest driver of this growth is the population of drug offenders doubling in the last 20 years. This increase is compounded by the length of their sentences. While the number of imprisoned drug offenders has been fairly constant, the population has increased due to these offenders serving longer statutory mandatory minimum penalties.
"After decades of unbridled growth in its prison population, the United States faces a defining moment. There is broad, bipartisan agreement that the costs of incarceration have far outweighed the benefits, and that our country has largely failed to meet the goals of a well-functioning justice system: to enhance public safety, to prevent future victimization, and to rehabilitate those who have engaged in criminal acts. Indeed, a growing body of evidence suggests that our over-reliance on incarceration may in fact undermine efforts to keep the public safe. Momentum is strong for a new direction, for a criminal justice system guided by proven, cost-effective strategies that reduce crime and restore lives. But translating this impulse for reform into lasting change is no small challenge. This report provides both an urgent call to action and a roadmap for reforming the federal prison system, which, with 197,000 people behind bars, was the largest in the nation as 2015 drew to a close. By adopting the recommendations detailed here, and committing sufficient resources to ensure their effectiveness, we can reduce the federal prison population by 60,000 people over the coming years and achieve savings of over $5 billion, allowing for reinvestment in programs proven to reduce crime. Most important, these proposed reforms and savings can be achieved through evidence-based policies that protect public safety. Such savings will not only bring fiscal responsibility to a policy area long plagued by the opposite tendency, but will also free critical funds the US Department of Justice (DOJ) needs for other priorities, such as national security, state and local law enforcement, and victim assistance. And just as critically, these reforms will make our communities safer by ensuring we send the right people to prison and that they return to society with the skills, supervision, and support they need to stay crime free" (p. ix). Sections comprising this report include: the transformation of the federal corrections system—who the U.S. Bureau of Prisons (BOP) is, federal sentencing reform in the 1980s, the abolition of parole and the increase in time served, policy changes driving BOP growth, consequences due to growth, and the new path; Recommendation 1—Reserve Prison for Those Convicted of the Most Serious Federal Crimes; Recommendation 2—Promote a Culture of Safety and Rehabilitation in Federal Facilities; Recommendation 3—Incentivize Participation in Risk-Reduction Programming; Recommendation 4—Ensure Successful Reintegration by Using Evidence-Based Practices in Supervision and Support; Recommendation 5—Enhance System Performance and Accountability through Better Coordination across Agencies and Increased Transparency; and Recommendation 6—Reinvest Savings to Support the Expansion of Necessary Programs, Supervision, and Treatment.
"Almost half of the 195,809 federally sentenced individuals in the Bureau of Prisons are serving time for drug trafficking offenses, but little is known about their criminal histories or the nature of their offenses. This brief examines both, finding that many people in federal prison for drug crimes have minimal or no criminal histories, and most were not convicted of violent or leading roles. Nonetheless, many serve long prison sentences due to mandatory minimum sentencing laws. Lasting reductions in the size of the federal prison population will require big cuts in length of stay for drug offenses" (home page). Sections of this brief cover: many drug offenders housed in federal prisons have little to no criminal histories; few are convicted of leading trafficking organizations or responsible for violent acts during drug trafficking crimes; long federal sentences are driven by mandatory minimums; and continued federal prison population reductions require shorter drug sentences.