According to the latest statistics provided by the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), in January of 2003, there were an estimated 6.7 million men and women in jail or prison, on probation or on parole across the United States. Therefore, 1 out of every 32 adults in our country is part of the American correctional system. The latest Bureau of Justice Statistics estimates that 67.5% of all released prisoners are rearrested within 3 years.
In his recent State of the Union Address, the President proposed a four-year, $300 million initiative to reduce recidivism among the estimated 600,000 inmates who are released annually. The Presidents Prisoner Re-entry Initiative will attempt to expand job training programs, provide transitional housing, promote mentoring groups, and expand the involvement of faith based organizations in the reintegration of former prisoners. The Conference will review the proposal as it becomes legislation.
On October 27, 2003, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed S. 1194, the Mentally Ill Offender Treatment and Crime Reduction Act of 2003. The Act was introduced by Senator Mike DeWine (R-OH) and would be a good start towards ensuring that mentally ill offenders receive the proper treatment they need with grants designed to create community based treatment programs and other services. The programs receiving the grants would be required to operate collaboratively with criminal justice and mental health agencies. The bill has been received in the House and is awaiting action in the Judiciary Committee. The Conference has endorsed the legislation and is currently asking members of the House Committee for their support.
In May of 2003, Representative Danny Davis (D-IL) introduced HR 2166, the Public Safety Ex-Offender Self-Sufficiency Act of 2003. The proposal would amend the Internal Revenue Code in order to establish, as a general business credit, a temporary ex-offender low-income housing credit for qualified ex-offenders in a residential building which provides required support services. The bill currently has only 16 co-sponsors and has been referred to the House Ways and Means Committee. The Conference is studying the bill at this time.
In the 2000 criminal justice statement, Responsibility, Rehabilitation, and Restoration: A Catholic Perspective on Crime and Criminal Justice, the bishops called for the redirection of public resources towards more effective programs designed to rehabilitate and reintegrate ex-offenders back into society.
What You Can Do
With his State of the Union Address the President has made ex-offenders a priority in this legislative session. One way to achieve the Presidents goal of reducing recidivism is to contact you Representatives and ask them to support Senator DeWines bill, S. 1194, the Mentally Ill Offender Treatment and Crime Reduction Act of 2003.
In May of last year, Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Charles Schumer (D-NY) introduced S. 1034, the Assault Weapons Ban Reauthorization Act of 2003. The Ban was originally passed in 1994 to prohibit the manufacture and importation, for civilian use, of 19 specific military weapons and the future production of copycats. The Ban is scheduled to sunset in September of 2004. During the 2000 presidential campaign, the President made a pledge to reauthorize the Ban, as did many members of Congress. However, to date, neither the President nor the majority of members of Congress have agreed to publicly support S. 1034. The Conference is on record in support of S. 1034, as well as S. 1807, the Gun Show Loophole Act, which would require criminal background checks at gun shows.
In the 2000 pastoral statement, the bishops reiterated their support for reasonable efforts to protect society from the deadly violence associated with easy access to automatic weapons.
What You Can Do
Please contact your Senators and House members today and tell them the Assault Weapons Ban will expire in September of 2004. If Congress does not take action soon, thousands of assault weapons will find their way back into our country. S. 1034, the Assault Weapons Ban Reauthorization Act of 2003, will reauthorize the Ban and keep weapons like the AK-47 and the Uzi off of our streets. Remind them that the President supports the assault weapons ban, as do many Senators who have not yet committed to vote to renew the ban.
For Further Information
Andy Rivas 202-541-3190; (fax) 202-541-3339; firstname.lastname@example.org.