BY ISN STAFF | August 15, 2018
WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a letter to the U.S. Senate’s Judiciary Committee leadership, Bishop Frank J. Dewane, Chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development and Sister Donna Markham, O.P., Ph.D., President & CEO of Catholic Charities USA, expressed hopefulness as the committee considers the “Formerly Incarcerated Reenter Society Transformed Safely Transitioning Every Person Act” (FIRST STEP Act / S. 2795). The legislation is bipartisan and focuses on prison operations and reentry policies. It would offer incentives for inmates to go through counseling, substance abuse programs, and vocational training before reentering society. It passed in the U.S. House in late May and President Trump expressed support for the legislation earlier this month.
“This bill is truly only a first step for the further programming and support necessary to give returning citizens the support they need,” said Dewane and Markham in the letter addressed to Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), the chairperson and ranking member respectively. They noted that the bill does not include much-needed sentencing reform which is a critical element of meaningful criminal justice reform in the eyes of the Church.
Bishop Dewane and Sr. Markham also highlighted the importance of racial justice to the Catholic Church and emphasized the realities of racial bias that exist in the country’s current criminal justice system. They called on legislators to include language that “requires regular reports on whether there is racial bias in the risk assessment tool itself, and requires that its methodology be made public to ensure the integrity of the system.”
The full letter dated August 6, 2018, was published on the USCCB website but can also be found below.