Monday, January 2, 2017

Sentencing Reform's Success in 2017 May Depend Upon Faith-Based Groups

Faith-Based Coalitions Prepare to Weigh in on Sentence Reform in New Year


            After the past year, when the old political order was swept aside, traditional media discredited, and government institutions under renewed scrutiny by a skeptical electorate, we are not surprised that many organizations who failed to predict all of these upheavals are once again missing the newest trend in 2017 sentence relief hiding in plain sight. Many faith-based religious organizations, fresh from providing difference-making grass-roots support to the winning presidential candidate,  are preparing to take the lead in pressuring Congress to take action to reduce federal incarceration and recidivism.

            This process has already begun on the state level, as state officials come to realize that for-profit prisons and reentry facilities like halfway houses are just aren't getting the job done. Expect the new administration to strongly consider measures that get religious communities closely involved in the criminal justice system.

            The groundwork has already been set. The new administration has big plans for reducing the footprint of the federal agencies, none of which they are going to like. Put into an office by voters tired of the old, wasteful way of doing the people's business, they owe absolutely nothing to the federal bureaucracies,  and there are no more opaque or inefficient agencies than the BOP and the DOJ.

            .The harsh reality is that the previous administration, lauded by the media for its many  eloquent words supporting the concept of sentence relief, failed to take advantage of the fact that a majority of Congressmen and senators supported sentence relief. Yet, no sentence relief bills were even called for a vote.  Those votes are still there, and ready for executive leadership on measures that have broad bipartisan support, and support of an increasing number of religious organizations.
           In 2017, there will be an opportunity for faith-based groups of all denominations to
provide the leadership, initiative, and moral force to do their part to make sentence reform a reality, and thereafter accept the responsibility to  do whatever is necessary to make it successful.