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Bipartisan Passage of Prison Sentence Reform Bill Hailed by Criminal Justice Expert with Book on Prisons
Gini Graham Scott, Ph.D., J.D. -- Author of Fifty Books Gini Graham Scott, Ph.D., J.D. -- Author of Fifty Books
Lafayette , CA
Sunday, December 23, 2018

A Call for Prison Sentence Reform


            Finally!  In an unusual display of BIPARTISANSHIP, on December 20, the House passed the Senate prison reform bill called The First Step Act.  It sailed through the Senate by a vote of 87 to 12 and the House by a vote of 358 to 36.  The bill is one of its last acts before Congress adjourns for the Christmas holidays and a new Congress begins its term in January. 

            The announcement of the bill's passage was largely lost in the hysteria over the government shutdown, the President's announced pullout of troops from Syria and potentially from Afghanistan, the nose dive of the stock market, and liberal hype about the Mueller probe.  But it's important to recognize this historic Congressional achievement which President Trump, a long-time backer of the bill, signed the very next day.  The President called it "an incredible success for our country."  Then, he went on to say "When both parties work together we can keep our country safer."  President Trump had previously endorsed the bill as offering "reasonable sentencing reforms while keeping dangerous and violent criminals off our streets."  It has been called the most far-reaching overhaul of the criminal justice system in a generation.

             The bipartisan passage of this bill is an achievement that criminal justice expert Paul Brakke, the author of two books on the prisons -- The Costly U.S. Prison System and Crime in America -- has long advocated.  "It's wonderful to see the members of Congress finally put aside their differences to support a bill that the vast majority of Americans also support." 

             This widespread support has been reflected in various public opinion polls, such as one by the Benenson Strategy Group in October 2017, in which 70-72% of the respondents indicated it was important to reduce the prison population.  They also stated that they were more likely to vote for an elected official who supported eliminating mandatory minimum laws, or who agreed that incarceration is often counterproductive to public safety.  More recently a poll by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation found widespread public support for rehabilitation efforts in local criminal justice systems.  For example, 71% of the respondents said rehabilitation or treatment is the most important consideration in sentencing someone convicted of a nonviolent crime and has a mental illness, while 84% of respondents said local governments should devote resources to providing substance abuse treatment to drug abusers, as reported by Kathryn Casteel in a February 13, 2018 article on the FiveThirtyEight website.

             Brakke also stated that "We may not agree on many things these days in our divisive political environment, but at least the vast majority of us can agree on the need to give prisoners convicted of serious non-violent crimes a second chance at life outside prison. And while this fact isn't often mentioned, by increasing rehabilitation, this bill will reduce recidivism and help to cut down prison costs.  That's because these prisoners will be less likely to turn to crime due to improved job skills. Plus this legislation will help bring together and support families fractured due to a family member being in prison. And finally, this bill got signed.  They got it done.  Bravo to all." 

             According to Brakke, the bill includes some much needed changes in the federal sentencing law that can provide a model for the states, who have many more prisoners, to follow in reforming their own sentencing practices.  The same holds true for those held in jails run by local municipalities. As Brakke points out, the major advantages of the bill are that it shortens sentences for deserving prisoners and provides for increased rehabilitation efforts.  As a result, prisoners are better able to find jobs and live productive lives when they return to their communities. And they are more likely to return to intact families, too.

             Among other things, the bill provides these major changes:

- Three-strikes prisoners will no longer face automatic life sentences; instead they will only face 25 years.

- Drug offenders who would automatically receive 20 year sentences will now face only 15 years.

- Well-behaved low-risk prisoners will get credit for participating in job-training programs and will have more opportunities to participate in early release programs.

- Corrections officers will get de-escalation training to help them better respond to inmates with mental illnesses or cognitive impairment.

            As Brakke points out, the bill has received extensive support across the political spectrum, including on the left by the American Civil Liberties Union and on the right by the American Conservative Union, the Fraternal Order of the Police, and the Faith and Freedom Coalition.  A key reason for this widespread support is that the bill both gives non-violent, low-risk offenders a chance for a fresh start as productive members of society, and at the same time it keeps dangerous and violent prisoners behind bars, making communities safer.

            Besides being a long-time supporter of this reform bill, Brakke has long favored many other criminal reforms as the publisher of American Leadership Books, which specializes in books on crime and criminal justice.   These books include The Costly U.S. Prison System, and a chapter on prisons in his latest book Crime in America: Conservatives' Approaches toward Criminals, Police, Criminal Justice, and the Opioid Crisis. 

             Now since this bill has been signed into law, Brakke hopes to see other recommendations he has made for all phases of the criminal justice process turned into legislation.  For instance, he has encouraged legislation to enable judges to exercise more discretion in sentencing nonviolent offenders to reduced sentences, especially for drug offenses. As Brakke has emphasized in his books, reduced incarceration results in lower levels of recidivism, because shorter sentences helps to keep the families of felons and ex-felons together.  Then, too, ex- felons are better able to find jobs and become productive citizens, so they have less incentive to return to crime.        

            Brakke's books on The Costly U.S. Prison System and Crime in America are part of the series of books on crime, criminal justice, and American society from American Leadership Books.  In Crime in America, which provide an overview of crime patterns and how the criminal justice system works -- or doesn't, Brakke offers suggestions for improving the system.  For instance, he has long advocated finding ways to reduce the prison population, since the U.S. has the highest percentage of its population in prison in the world with about 2.2 million people behind bars as of 2016 -- a nationwide incarceration rate of 860 prison or jail inmates for every 100,000 adults ages 18 and older, according to Bureau of Justice statistics.

            To learn more, you can now get a free review copy of Crime in America, which is available for preorder, too, on Amazon.  Brakke is offering these books for free to anyone who wants to review and comment on the book -- just go to www.crimeinamericathebook.com to get a copy.  Also, copies are available for government officials who might turn some of Brakke's other suggestions for reducing crime and fixing the criminal justice system into legislation.  Members of the media are invited to request copies of the book, too.

            To help draw attention to the suggested fixes in the book, Brakke has additionally launched a video and social media campaign with five new videos each day. The first 10 are featured on his American Leadership Books' YouTube channel.  Among the most recent videos is "Want to Know More about U.S. Crime and Prisons?" https://youtu.be/87fLsRId3Is

            Brakke's next books -- Fractured America and Prisons in America -- will be out in the next few months.

            For media copies of the book, along with additional information on American Leadership Books and Paul Brakke, and to set up interviews, please contact:

Jana Collins

Jones & O'Malley

Toluca Lake, California


(818) 762-8353

Gini Graham Scott, Ph.D., J.D.
Changemakers Publishing and Writing
Lafayette, CA
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