Monday, May 02, 2016

BROKEN JUSTICE - The Obama Fix and U.S. Senate Fix

"An inside look at the Obama administration’s criminal justice reforms" PBS NewsHour 4/28/2016


SUMMARY:  Top senators revealed a bipartisan criminal justice reform bill on Thursday that includes changes to sentencing guidelines for some offenders and the creation of reentry programs for newly released prisoners.  The move comes as the Obama administration is pushing its own series of initiatives.  Judy Woodruff talks to Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates for more on that effort.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  On Capitol Hill today, a group of top senators unveiled a bipartisan bill to reform the nation’s criminal justice system.

Among other things, the legislation would reduce prison sentences for some nonviolent drug offenders, and create programs to help offenders reenter society.  The move comes at the same time the Obama administration is pushing a series of criminal justice initiatives.

Spearheading that effort is Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, who joins us now.

Deputy Attorney General Yates, thank you for being with us.

SALLY YATES, Deputy Attorney General:  Well, thank you for having me.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  So, tell us what the thrust of the administration’s criminal justice reform efforts are.  What are you trying to fix?

SALLY YATES:  Well, we’re trying to accomplish a number of things.

First, with the sentencing reform bill, we’re really trying to bring proportionality back to sentencing, and specifically for lower-level nonviolent drug offenders.  And then with our Reentry Week this week, we’re really trying to highlight the importance of assuring that those who are returning from prison have just those basic tools they need in order to be able to be successful.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  So, what are some examples of that?  What are some things that they need that they aren’t getting right now, most of them?

SALLY YATES:  Well, just imagine right now that you’re leaving prison.  You may or may not have a family to go back to.  Particularly if you were incarcerated a long way from where your family lives, your wife may have divorced you at this point, so you may or may not have a family to go back to.

And you may or may not have had a chance to stay in touch with your children during this time as well.  It’s expensive for people to travel.  So, you have got to find a place to live.  Public housing is difficult.  Some public housing operations will not allow convicted felons.  Then you have got to find a job.  And finding a job is really difficult at all right now, but just imagine if you have to add convicted felon to your resume.

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