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Sensenbrenner Proposes Federal Prison Reforms

Wisconsin Congressman Says Plan Would Save Money By Releasing Some Elderly Prisoners

House GOP (CC-BY-NC)

One of Wisconsin’s most conservative Republican congressmen is leading the charge on a bill he says will reduce the nation’s prison population and save as much as $2 billion.

Dubbed the Safe, Accountable, Fair and Effective Justice Act, the legislation is a package of policy changes designed to keep people from going to prison. It also includes sentencing and probation law changes that have proved effective in reducing recidivism.

In a recent interview with the libertarian Cato Institute, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Milwaukee, said one key provision of the bill will promote the release of a growing number of elderly inmates.

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“People who might be 80 years old and use a walker that are still in prison really don’t belong there. Because they’re not going to be able to run away from the police going down the street with the walker after they hit up the 7-Eleven,” he said.

Sensenbrenner is working closely with Rep. Bobby Scott, a Virginia Democrat, to win bipartisan support for the bill.

The package already has 39 co-sponsors, close to equally divided among Republicans and Democrats.

Sensenbrenner said the bill also creates a set of best practices for prosecutors to ensure that defense lawyers are informed of all the evidence that will be used in a trial. He said that too often, cases are thrown out because established rules of disclosure have not been followed.

Editor’s note: The original byline for this story attributed it to Chuck Quirmbach. The reporting was done by Gilman Halstead. It has been updated.