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Federal Reading List for Week of June 30, 2023

A list of Stories and Posts that we wanted to cover.

This is the Federal Reading List, a group of odds and ends that we want to at least let the public know about.

The best way to reform prisons is to reduce their populations (Washington Post Opinion)

A former incarcerated person offers a solution.

Going forward, the Bureau of Prisons should adopt policies to align its compassionate release practices with federal courts and stop rubber-stamping denials. Almost everyone who has received compassionate release has done so from federal courts.

The bureau should also fulfill its legal obligation to fully implement the First Step Act. People remain in prison longer than necessary because the agency is failing to provide adequate programming for people to earn time credits and is calculating credits incorrectly.

Rehab on hold: COVID devastated prison learning programs (Associated Press)

“People weren’t prepared for this,” said Oscar Martinez, a resident of Valley State Prison. “I believe it created a lot of trauma for people, on top of the trauma they already had. The cell that you have in your mind, when you start suffocating in there, it’s just like cage after cage after cage.”

It’s hard to overstate the positive impact of educational and skills training on prisoner rehabilitation, said Margaret diZerega, who directs the Vera Institute of Justice’s Unlocking Potential initiative, which is focused on expanding college in prison. Given that 90% of people who are incarcerated in the U.S. will return to their communities, prisoner access to rehabilitative programming should matter to everyone, she said.

“We know from the research that these kinds of programs reduce recidivism rates. They improve safety in the prisons, there are fewer violent incidents, which is positive for the staff who work at the prisons and for the people who live in the prisons,” diZerega said.

“I’m appalled by the disgraceful conditions in prisons and jails at all levels across our country,” Ossoff said last week in his Russell Senate Office Building suite, sitting in front of a prominent picture of Lewis. “It is a national disgrace and a betrayal of a founding principle embedded in our Bill of Rights, the prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.”

Describing Lewis’s ability to “radiate” empathy, Ossoff said, “I try to remain grounded in his values as I serve, and I know that he viewed as a moral failure the conditions of incarceration in the United States.”

Those conditions prompted four subcommittee investigations beginning in May 2021, and four hearings that were notable for bipartisan cooperation — on what could have been contentious immigration and law and order issues — with Sen. Ron Johnson (Wis.), the top Republican on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs subcommittee.

BOP Ends Use of Privately Owned Prisons (

(BOP) - Consistent with the President's January 26, 2021, Executive Order on "Reforming Our Incarceration Systems to Eliminate the Use of Privately Operated Criminal Detention Facilities," the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) has ended all contracts with privately-managed prisons. The contract with the last private prison, McRae Correctional Facility, located in McRae, Georgia, ended on November 30, 2022. Throughout the years, the partnerships between the BOP and privately-managed prisons remained positive, while maintaining transparency and accountability.

All BOP inmates previously housed in these private prisons have been safely transferred to BOP locations without incident.

In the mid-1980s, the BOP began designating Low security inmates with specialized needs, such as sentenced criminal aliens, to privately-managed prisons to address, and better manage, the increasing inmate population. Over time, the BOP maintained contracts for 15 private prisons, housing approximately 29,000 inmates. The overall BOP population peaked in 2013, with over 219,000 inmates. Today, the BOP maintains a population of approximately 159,500 inmates and employs 34,813 staff.

See also: Executive Order on Reforming Our Incarceration System to Eliminate the Use of Privately Operated Criminal Detention Facilities (the White House)

Thousands of federal inmates still await early release under Trump-era First Step Act (NBC News)

Thousands of nonviolent federal prisoners eligible for early release under a promising Trump-era law remain locked up nearly four years later because of inadequate implementation, confusion and bureaucratic delays, prisoner advocacy groups, affected inmates and former federal prison officials say.

Even the Biden administration’s attempt to provide clarity to the First Step Act by identifying qualified inmates and then transferring them to home confinement or another form of supervised release appears to be falling short, according to prisoner advocates familiar with the law.

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