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Prison reform bill needs to to be rescued, broadened

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The Post and Courier of Charleston, South Carolina, published this editorial Aug. 28 on prison reform programs.

A prison reform bill that passed the House with a strong bipartisan majority is slowly dying in the Senate. It must be rescued and broadened.

The First Step Act focuses on ways to help federal prisoners prepare for a productive life once they leave prison and to support them in their search for employment.

It is a thoughtful attempt to break the destructive cycle that results in more than half of federal prisoners returning to prison within a few years after their first release. Pilot programs have shown that recidivism can be sharply reduced by providing such support.

The lone problem with the First Step Act is that it addresses only the 225,000 inhabitants of federal prisons. That is just 15 percent of the nation’s prison population. The bill doesn’t help the far more numerous inmates transitioning from state prisons and local jails. It should provide states with grants to encourage the establishment of similar prison-to-society assistance programs.


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