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tv   U.S. Senate Cornyn on Criminal Justice  CSPAN  December 18, 2018 12:04am-12:25am EST

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today the senate members voted to answer criminal justice reform bill before several senators spoke on the floor about the legislation. this portion starts with some the majority whip job cornyn. >> i'm madam president at 535 will be voting on the first procedural step to take up criminal justice reform legislation that started back in 2013 when i introduced a bill would call federal prison reform this legislation is based on prison reform that it has taken on additional attributes relative to how we sentence and how judges sentence people convicted of various crimes. let me explain a little bit about why this should be a priority for the senate and for the congress and for the country
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we know that the cycle of crime is all too common. people commit crimes, they serve time in prisonom and they get ot of prison. they commit another crime. they serve time again imprisoned they are released. this is what one young man in houston at years ago when he was talking about his own experience to call them suffer frequent flyer. somebody carvin revolvingt door of prison and crime. but in texas in 2007 or thereabouts we have some farsighted visionary leaders actually who decided instead of just being tough on crime which texas has arias had a reputation for when you should be smart on crime two. a little more than a decade ago texas prisons were roosting at the seams. we have more people incarcerated in texas prisons than any state in the nation and tragically we
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also had high recidivism rate. it was obvious we were doing something wrong and we needed to up our game. the legislative budget -- budget border state estimated the next five years texas would need as iny as 17,000 new prison beds to house the growing inmate population. two options became clear, build more costly prisons with the same tragic results or fix the system and we chose the ladder. i would say madam president some of our colleagues and some of the critics of the underlying elsayed s. we keep committee saved is to keep criminals in prison and there are some people sadly who will never take it an edge of the opportunity to transform their lives through faith-based programs, deal with their drug and alcohol addiction, learn a skill, get a
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ged. in other words there are somet people unfortunately you can't save that there are others who understand that they have made a mistake and paid their debt to society and want to turn their lives around that those are the types of people as criminal justice reform bill speaks to. in the beginning my state the decision was largely driven by cost. the estimated price tag to build new prisons exceeded $2 billion. you can imagine what that does to a state's budget. instead of leaving taxpayers with the bill of just moving on a visionary group of state legislators decided to dive further into the problem to try to understand it better and propose effective ways to fix fx it. these fix its came in the number of forms and looking back on it now it seemed. obvious. intuitive that the time really was revolutionary. first for improvements in our parole system which means that
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once people got out of prison p. whole work supervise wahlo prison to make sure that they met the conditions of their parole and didn't get involved with the same bad company that helped them get in trouble in the first place. they didn't start using drugs again and they kept holding employment so this supervision targeted 10% fewer revocations and graduated sanctions for small violations such as misdemeanors. that's particularly important because one of theor f first indication that somebody is on parole is in trouble is when they don't show up at a meeting with their parole officer. the past that was pretty much blown off until the miss meetings began to b accumulate d ultimately that individual found themselves back arrested him back in jail and ultimately back in prison. rather than letting the small infractions pile up eventually
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sending the person back to prison each misstep was dealt with swiftly and surely. in 2005, $55 million was programmed in texas to probation departments to make improvements in how we supervise people who had once been in prison. most of the funds going towards reducing caseloads and another parole officers and probation officers that they would have to handle so many cases. they can get individual attention that they need and the formerly incarcerated individuals will benefitfi from. that brought the number of cases down from nearly 150 in some areas to 110 probationers. this allowed for closer supervision and constant application of sanctions when called s for. the results were. dramatic. in 2005 our stay was throwing 21,000 prisoners. 11,000 of them returned to
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prison after committing other crimes so that means a little more than a 2% were eventually going back to prison. decades later putting in place these reforms the state parole 28,000 prisoners and about 4500 came back or only 16%. so you went from about half of the people in prison being paroled without much supervision and much help to only 16% because of these reforms. these reforms as i said at the outset may not look so obvious and seem so intuitive but it seems clear to us today at the time it was pretty groundbreaking. as we all know many politicians one of their biggest fears when it comes to the next election is being accused of being soft on crime. again this is not about being
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tough on crime or soft on crime. this is about being smart on crime and getting the best results. the decline in revocations led to citizens $119 million for texas taxpayers more than double the initial investment in these programs. t the second were improvements to prison alternatives for low-level non-violent -- judges and prosecutors and corrections officials were frustrated by thu number of individuals who kept ending up right back where they started with no real change in their project. certainly no more hope for their future. so the state started to provide increased access to things like substance abuse treatment and mental illness treatment. again the reason why people end up in prison often has very little to do with their desire to live a life of crime. many of them feed their addictionft by theft and other
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crimes. people who are mentally illho would go to prison without diagnosing treatment don't get gany better when they get let t of jail and prison. they just go back deteriorating until they become a danger to themselves and others. in addition mandatory pre-release programs were expanded to reduce the back lot forr inmates waiting to complete these requirements. in other words they are a lot more people who wanted to go through these programs because they recognize the benefit to themselves and their families but they just simply couldn't get into the programs because there weren't enough slots. for example the expansion of the drug treatment plan brought down wait time from one year to four months. if you or'r somebody with a drug problem and you are told we don't have room for you, come back in a c year that can be obviously very discouraging and not result in getting them to help that they need. so moving the wait time for drug
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treatment down from one year to four months moves two-thirds of the wait list for treatment after which they were released only to see a more hopeful and better outcome. so in texas the model work. not only did weno avoid doping more prisons we actually closed the prisons in texas. again this sounds a little shocking if you are from other parts of the country when you hear about arere tough on crime legislation but lerach's able to close a prisons because they were no longer needed because of these reforms. we quickly saw a reduction in both incarceration and crime rates by double digits at the same time. this to me is the essence of criminal justice reform. there are some that say we need to do criminal justice reform because well we just simply imprisoned too many people in there others that say we imprison people for offenses that are disproportionate for
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what they have done. to me the essence of criminal justice reform is reducing the crime rate. in other words increasing and improving public he. other states took notice of what was happening and started to do the same. georgia, rhode island, a north carolina quickly followed suit and we have seen a several other states across the u.s. adopt some of reforms. when i say we saw a reduction in the incarceration and crime rates let me l give you a couple of numbers. from 20005 to 2016 the texas fbi index crime plummeted by more than 34%. in the same period incarceration rates dropped 23%. that's pretty shocking and surprising numbers. it could crime rate went down 34%. the incarceration rate dropped 23%. it was the opposite would be
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true that with incarceration rates going down the crime rates would go up. because of these visionary programs in these reforms they simply worked in tandem vote that reducing the incarceration rate and improve public safety at the same time it's clear now based on experience that these reforms and these outcomes are real. i've been working with my colleagues in the senate judiciary committee since 2013 to tryor to bring these reforms down to the national level. the first step act as their opportunity to do just that this week in the senate. thanks to the primary sponsors of the first step act the senator from illinois who has joined us here in the chamber chairman of the judiciary committee senator grassley mike lee, pat leahy and others who have worked on this bill sheldon whitehouse and i have worked
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primarily on the prison reform bill the current bill hasis undergone major improvements over the last few weeks which i'm very proud of. previous versions of the legislation had a number of very positive attributes. back more than -3/4 of the bill was based on the corrections act that senator whitehouse and iod introduced in 2014 which is the prison reform component of legislation. the remainder of the sentencing of these bill were more controversial and many of my concerns were shared by members of the law enforcement community. as i was looking at were members of on the bill is clear that many could not support the old urchin of the bill and needed the primary sponsors bill just a moment ago to work with them tow try to make it more accessible to lawd enforcement which is going to send the signal i think to many other senators about whether they should get kind of bill.
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madam president we have all learned how to get things done here in the senate and that is not just to point out the problems with legislation but also workingat together to find solutions and that's exact what we did. we spent a lot of time talking to, as i said, law enforcement organizations and those in texas texas -- i know we all value template of our share of center police chief and our other law enforcement t professionals we y to work with them to figure out how we can make a still stronger.d i listened to feedback from our nation's police officers and sheriffs and we all got to work. we had meetings. we negotiated, we compromise. colleagues on both sides of the aisle across the capitol capitol in the house. also worked with the white house we all stayed in constant contact with this issue since the trump administration to go nearly two years ago. jared kushner the president's
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son-in-law is enron was in his pursuit of getting this criminal justice reform bill done. i know each of us who have been involved in this legislation had talked with them almost on a daily basis, sometimes many times in a given day. this bill is a product of those negotiations and those changes. i'm not the only one that's happy with the result. since the improvements have been made the bill has been endorsed by a number of important groups including the national association of counties, the texas municipal police association, the fraternal order ofer police and the counsel of state governments. so i appreciate the dedication and hard work of our colleagues who have worked on this to get the bill where it is today. but madam president i want to correct the misconceptions floating around about what this bill and will not -- will and
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will not do. there are some that for example say this legislation will put violent criminals and sex offenders back on the streets which is completely false. let me say that again because i think it bears repeating. this bill will notow allow dangerous violent criminals to be released early. that's pure fiction. not everybody is eligible to get the credits based on early releaseth based on their participation is programmed to talk about a moment ago. these bills specific wait lists 48 offenses that disqualify offenders from earning time credit specifically assaults, carjacking that resulted i in unlawful possession or use of a firearm or criminal drug trafficking. we use the most modern and stylish and tools to find out who is at risk of reoffending
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and these are the ones you get the benefit of these programs because we think these are the ones who are most likely to have a good outcome and not end up back in prison. we have disqualified violent offenders includingfe anybody wo either use or displayed or happened to be carrying a c firearm during the course of committing theirhe offense. those who have not committed one of those crimes aren't automatically eligible. in fact nobody is automatically eligible for the benefits of this program. as they said they have to be evaluated to be peeled minimum or low recidivism risk. that decision is made by the experience law enforcement professionals and the wardens in the federal bureau of prisons who work with these men and women every day. it's important that we look at people who are at risk of recidivism and low risk to
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public safety the committee because we can do is use the resources not to keep people like that behind bars unnecessarily but to focus on the truly violent criminals who are not likely to be rehabilitated because they don't want to be rehabilitated. by focusing on the most dangerous criminals and keeping them behind bars while providing relief to those earned that time credit just makes common sense. some people are claiming that the first step back to retroactively release of illegal immigrants in top-level job traffickers by increasing the good time credit i 70 days a year but again this is simply not true. although bill does is clarify congress's original intent when it comes to good time credit. good time credit is different from the earning credit from participating in its various programs but you can imagine how important is this not only to safety of the jailers and the wardens in the public law
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enforcement officials in the prison because it gives inmates hope that if they lead exemplary lives while imprisoned that they have a greater hope of earning good time credit and getting out earlier. all this does is it clarifies congress's original intent -- intent that 54 days at the time credit be available rather than the 47 days the bureau prisons has interpreted the previous law that was more ambiguous. that is not the change in what congress intended. it's merely a clarification of pre-existing congressional intent. in addition to the bills and gang members -- gang members to be transferred in order to be closer to home is also not true. while the bill does call for
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inmates to be transferred to prison within 500 miles of the relief resident that only applies if there are no security concerns and subject to theli availability of beds and other conditions. for example a member of the dangers ms-13 gang held in maximum security over 500 miles from their release resident and there happens to be minimum security prison within 500 miles of their release resident say they would not be transferred. we simply don't transfer violent criminals from medium security prisons because they have to be within 500 miles of their residence. there has been a misunderstanding and misrepresentation of what's in the bill. the goal of this bill was not te release criminals. in fact it's just the o opposit. legislationps allows criminals o
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transform their lives if they are willing to take the steps of the responsibility to do so so we are not capitulating the cycle of crime that continues to plague communities across the country and to drain taxpayer dollars in the process and to damage public safety. i want to thank out all of our colleagues who work so hard on this legislation. when the most important attributes of the senators to listen and to listen to our constituents, listened to the feedback from our members and help build a better bill that will give more support than otherwise it would have. congress it will pass this bill in the concision sent to the president's desk for his signature. madam president i yield thent floor. >> with me start by joining my colleague democratic leader and his words about the great senator and personal friend

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