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June 8, 2006 - Press Release (US)

National Commission Outlines Crucial Reforms To Prevent Violence And Abuse In U.S. Correctional Facilities

Report Connects Problems Inside Facilities to Public Safety and Public Health

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive

Today the Commission on Safety and Abuse in America's Prisons released Confronting Confinement, a report on violence and abuse in U.S. jails and prisons, the impact of those problems on public safety and public health, and how correctional facilities nationwide can become safer and more effective. Five members of the Commission will testify before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Corrections and Rehabilitation about the report's key findings and recommendations (Dirksen Senate Office Building, Room 226, 2:30 p.m. EDT).

A diverse group co-chaired by former U.S. Attorney General Nicholas de B. Katzenbach and John J. Gibbons, former Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, the Commission concluded that serious problems exist even as it identified promising practices and strong leadership that contradict the notion that violence and abuse are inevitable features of life behind bars in America.

"I hope that Congress and state and local law makers will use this report to spark and guide reforms and that the public will find in these pages evidence of the incredible challenges corrections professionals encounter every day," said Katzenbach.

The report addresses dangerous conditions of confinement - violence, poor health care, and inappropriate segregation -- that can also endanger corrections officers and the public; lack of political support for labor and management; weak oversight of correctional facilities; and serious flaws in the available data about violence and abuse. Among 30 practical reforms, the Commission recommends:

* A re-investment in programming for prisoners to prevent violence inside facilities and reduce recidivism after release.
* Changing federal law to extend Medicaid and Medicare reimbursement to correctional facilities and ending prisoner co-pays for medical care, reforms necessary to protect the public health.
* Reducing the use of high-security segregation, which can actually cause violence, and ending the release of prisoners directly from these units to the streets, which contributes to recidivism.
* Increased investment at state and local levels to recruit, train, and retain skilled, capable workers at all levels.
* Expanding the capacity of the National Institute of Corrections to work with states and localities to create a positive institutional culture in corrections facilities.
* Creating an independent agency in every state to oversee prisons and jails and changing federal law to narrow the scope of the Prison Litigation Reform Act.
* Developing standardized reporting nationwide on violence and abuse behind bars so that corrections officials, lawmakers, and the public can have reliable measures of violence and monitor efforts to make facilities safer.

"For the vast majority of inmates prison is a temporary, not a final, destination. The experiences inmates have in prison -- whether violent or redemptive -- do not stay within prison walls, but spill over into the rest of society. Federal, state, and local governments must address the problems faced by their respective institutions and develop tangible and attainable solutions," said Senator Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK), Chair of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Corrections and Rehabilitation. The Subcommittee's Ranking Member is Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL).

The 20 members of the Commission include Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals, those who run correctional systems and those who litigate on behalf of prisoners, scholars, and individuals with a long history of public service and deep experience in the administration of justice.

Beginning in March 2005, the Commission held four public hearings in cities around the country, visited jails and prisons, consulted with current and former corrections officials and a wide range of experts working outside the profession, and conducted a thorough review of available research and data. The Commission is staffed by and funded through the Vera Institute of Justice.

To read a summary of the commission's findings and recommendations and a brief Q&A about the report, or to access the complete report, go to

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