Reforming Our Criminal Justice System
I am committed to reforming our broken prison system to save taxpayers money and give individuals who have paid their debt to society a second chance. In conjunction with my leadership on criminal justice matters, I have focused on producing legislation which invests in education, economic growth, and jobs. I believe we should be investing in opportunity instead of squandering tax dollars building more prisons.
Federal, state and local prisons have vastly expanded the use of solitary confinement. At any given time, 80,000 people are held in solitary confinement nationwide. These individuals are kept isolated for as many as 23 hours a day, often for years on end, with limited contact with other prisoners or the outside world. Inmates subject to indefinite long-term solitary confinement are at higher risk for suicide, self-mutilation and often descend into madness. We must change our approach to solitary confinement to address the public safety, human and fiscal costs to our nation.
On any given day, there are over 70,000 juveniles in jail across the country at a cost of around $6 billion a year. Interactions with the criminal justice system at a young age have a ripple effect that makes it harder for children to achieve success later. We in Congress have a responsibility to do things that ensure that our children have a brighter future. By investing in support programs rather than incarceration, we can reduce the amount we have to spend on incarceration, reduce recidivism, and make the public safer. Supporting programs that keep our children out of jail is one of the best investments we can make.
Just over 50,000 men and women are held in Louisiana prisons and jails. Every year, 15,000 prisoners are released from Louisiana prisons and jails and return to their communities. Former prisoners must juggle a number of reentry challenges including trying to acquire steady employment, finding stable housing, dealing with health problems, and attempting to renew family relationships. As a result, they often end up reincarcerated for either violating the conditions of release or for committing a new crime. We must provide these individuals with the services and support that could facilitate their successful reintegration.