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New House Task Force Will Examine Growing Federal Prison System

May 14, 2013 08:42:54 am

Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), who chairs the House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees federal prison spending, will work with ranking member Chaka Fattah (D-PA), on a task force to review all aspects of the rapidly growing federal correctional system, reports CQ Roll Call. Wolf is outraged that federal prisoners are not provided more opportunities to gain work experience and believes the Bureau of Prisons is holding too many people, including ill older inmates who no longer pose a threat to society. A report by the Justice Department’s inspector general came to the same conclusion. “If you’re 68 years old and you’re dying of cancer and your life expectancy is seven months, why do we want to keep you in prison?” Wolf says.

A separate House task force is examining "overcriminalization" in the federal justice system, including what Judiciary Chairman Robert Goodlatte (R-VA) calls minor crimes in which perpetrators may not have realized they were breaking the law. He cited the example of an 11-year-old girl who "saved a baby woodpecker from the family cat" and was fined $535 under a federal law banning the possession of a migratory bird. In the Senate, Rand Paul (R-KY), has joined with Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) on a "safety valve" bill that would allow federal judges to depart from mandatory minimum sentences under certain conditions.

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