Tillis, Portman lead bipartisan letter stressing need to reinstate programs that reduce recidivism

U.S. Sens. Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Rob Portman (R-OH) led a bipartisan group of lawmakers in voicing concerns about revisions to Bureau of Prisons’ (BOP) programming and personnel that could compromise efforts to curb recidivism.

In a letter to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Federal Bureau of Prisons Director Mark Inch, the Senators cited concerns with a revised Statement of Work for BOP’s Residential Reentry Centers (RRCs). The revised Statement of Work eliminates Cognitive Behavioral Programming and a social services coordinator position.

“We believe that these changes in programming and personnel will compromise public safety, decrease inmate accountability, and lead to increased recidivism rates,” the senators wrote.

Tillis and Portman’s letter was also signed by senators who support reforming the federal prison system, including U.S. Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), John Cornyn (R-TX), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Al Franken (D-MN) and Brian Schatz (D-HI).

The letter noted the BOP is reducing its use of Residential Reentry Centers without advance warning or explanation to affected parties. “As a consequence, inmates are spending more time in prison, being released directly from prison into the community without the necessary supervision, or spending insufficient time in transitional facilities,” the letter said. “These changes, particularly in the absence of a justification, threaten to make our communities less safe while increasing BOP operating costs over time.”

Tillis and Portman pointed to extensive research that indicates Cognitive Behavioral Programming offered in halfway houses helps reduce taxpayer costs while reducing recidivism, adding that social services coordinators help guide successful reentry into society through employment and community resources.

“The long list of benefits deriving from these resources — including safer communities and reduced recidivism — far outweighs their costs,” the letter states.

The lawmakers asked Rosenstein and Inch for a briefing on the decision to revise the statement of work and to reduce the use of Residential Reentry Centers.