In a keynote address given at the American Enterprise Institute, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, co-sponsor of the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, discussed the efforts that many conservative states have taken over the last decade to confront stubbornly high recidivism rates and spiraling corrections costs, and provides context on how lessons learned can inform federal reform.
In particular, Senator Cornyn emphasized that federal legislation would use money and resources saved by diverting lower-risk, low-level offenders away from incarceration towards prioritizing prison space for more serious, violent offenders—a policy similar to those states that have enacted successful justice reinvestment initiatives in recent years. Additionally, current legislation also calls for providing offenders with the opportunity to earn “good time” credit through participation in proven recidivism-reduction programs (excluding those convicted on terrorism or violence charges), and for establishing post-sentencing risk-needs assessments to adequately determine an offender’s potential risk and identify programming needs.
Senator Cornyn’s speech also highlighted the work done by private sector programs—including Texas’ Prison Entrepreneur Program, based primarily out of Houston—that endeavor to reform offenders by equipping them with marketable job skills prior to release, thereby preparing them to lead lives of productivity.
Senator Cornyn’s full remarks can be viewed below: