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Attorney General Eric Holder urges discussion on reinstating federal parole

November 6, 2013

Parole for federal prisoners abolished 26 years ago, Nov. 1, 1987

by Donald Reynolds

AG Eric Holder, former fed prisoner Robert Warner speaks on re-entry at press conf 110513 Phil. US Courthouse
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder looks on as former federal prisoner Robert Warner speaks at a Nov. 5 press conference at the U.S. Courthouse in Philadelphia about the re-entry program he just completed. Holder, seeking to reduce mass incarceration, told USA Today that “new consideration should be given to the reinstatement of parole for federal offenders to help restore fairness in the criminal justice system and relieve overcrowding in the swelling federal prison system.” – Photo: Matt Rourke, AP
The Sentencing Reform Act of 1984 was a joint product of Congress and the Reagan administration that has systematically caged roughly 219, 200 men and woman within federal prisons across the country, many under the guise of the on-going War on Drugs that Reagan declared in October 1982. Nearly three quarters – 71 percent – of these federal prisoners are racial or ethnic minorities: 40 percent Black, 31 percent Latino. The act, which took effect on Nov. 1, 1987, abolished federal parole and substantially reduced good behavior adjustments, thus covertly reincarnating this country’s wicked and shameful legacy of slavery – now coined the criminal justice system – in its mass incarceration of people of color.

The number of sentenced federal prisoners has exploded by more than 800 percent in the past 26 years. The Bureau of Justice’s records reflect that there were only 21, 539 federal prisoners behind bars back in ’79; then it escalated to 143, 864 in 2004, finally skyrocketing to an astonishing 219, 200, today. The cost to the government and American taxpayers to warehouse this world’s record-setting number of federal prisoners is over $8.2 billion a year.

To alleviate America’s swiftly growing infatuation with incarceration, the Federal Bureau of Prisons has turned to the option of private, for-profit prisons, even after undergoing a nationwide prison-building frenzy in the early-to-mid 2000s.

The act, which took effect on Nov. 1, 1987, abolished federal parole and substantially reduced good behavior adjustments, thus covertly reincarnating this country’s wicked and shameful legacy of slavery – now coined the criminal justice system – in its mass incarceration of people of color.

One of the major factors for such an unprecedented surge in federal convictions is the increased federalization of crime, as the government has expanded its reach and control into areas that has historically rested under state jurisdiction, such as illegal immigration, small-time drug possession cases and firearm violations.

Another reason, amongst many, that is contributing to the federal prison overcrowding crisis is mandatory minimum sentencing. It’s derived from the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986, which required harsh, set-in-stone mandatory sentences for certain offenses.

Anyone convicted under that law has no way out of a mandatory minimum sentence unless he reaches a guilty plea agreement with the U.S. Attorney, the prosecutor. In most cases, that requires “snitching” or what the government calls “cooperating” or providing “substantial assistance” in the prosecution of another person, giving the defendant a strong incentive to lie – implicating others the only means of reducing his own sentence.

There has been recent talk of slowing down the pace of incarceration from U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, but he had not addressed the issue of federal parole until today, when he told USA Today that “new consideration should be given to the reinstatement of parole for federal offenders to help restore fairness in the criminal justice system and relieve overcrowding in the swelling federal prison system. … Parole, which was abolished for federal offenders convicted after 1987 as part of tough anti-crime measures of the time, ‘ought to be discussed,’ Holder said.”

Only by reducing the amount of time inmates spend behind federal prison bars – by eliminating harsh mandatory minimum sentences and resurrecting federal parole – will much of the unnecessary suffering caused by prison overcrowding and budgetary financial strain be alleviated.

Mass incarceration spreads like cancer, affecting not only those inside the prison houses, but innocent law-abiding citizens too. In any war, there will always be collateral consequences, and the War of Drugs has devastated many poor, disadvantaged neighborhoods, leaving behind children and the elderly, trapped in a prison of poverty.

Congress has not discussed the issue of reinstating federal parole since 2002, when the late Congresswoman Patsy Mink, the first woman of color elected to Congress, introduced a much-needed proposal. Unfortunately, she passed away before mustering enough support to make federal parole a reality again.

Only by reducing the amount of time inmates spend behind federal prison bars – by eliminating harsh mandatory minimum sentences and resurrecting federal parole – will much of the unnecessary suffering caused by prison overcrowding and budgetary financial strain be alleviated.

There is currently a federal parole proposal pending before Congress and President Obama. Your signature as well as your support is needed. Please sign the Resurrect Federal Parole proposal now, at http://www.petition2congress.com/11818/resurrect-parole-federal-prisoners/.

Send our brother some love and light: Donald Reynolds, 12695-021, FCI Pekin, P.O. Box 5000, Pekin, IL 61555. Bay View staff updated this report.

 

5 thoughts on “Attorney General Eric Holder urges discussion on reinstating federal parole

  1. M_Reynolds

    Mass incarceration is NOT the answer! We tried that, and failed. Putting the United States even deeper in debt. The United States incarcerates more people than any other country in the world. One in every 28 children in the U.S. has a parent in prison. I tend to believe if you give these men and women something to work towards, such as a possibility of parole, this will promote better behaviors and safer conditions for prison staff.

    Reply
  2. Cassandra Sappington

    I know so many educated Men and women that have been unjustly incarcerated by this very act. Families have been destroyed. No one wins. We need our Men and women home so they can be productive citizens and pay their debt to society by working and paying taxes, not tax payers paying enslavement tabs.

    Reply
    1. Reeda

      I strongly agree with Casandra and M Reynolds. Prisons do no good in a lot of cases it makes humans worse. END THIS mass incarceration. If someone kills are rapes that's different but for the average inmate its no good' they have no reason to try and improve their and our life.

      Reply
  3. COrtiz

    The vast majority of inmates that are in prison are in there for substance abuse crimes. Back in the 1980's when the substance abuse, treatment, and vocational programs were enforced in the prison system, recidivism was low. Parole was in place and the cost of the prison system was not as high. Society as well does give prison inmates a chance when they get out of prison, therefore, this population is not given any other choice but to re-offend. Reinstate parole, vocational, substance abuse and treatment programs again to help our children of today and those in prison.

    Reply
  4. Nely

    After finding out how much it cost to house a inmates, I believed that is not much for crime punishment but for business, that they incarcerate people for that long just to squish the money of the federal government. Lest find out who are the big shots who owns this prisions.

    Reply

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