, |

Judicial Honors & Briefs


Vol. 99 No. 1 (2015) | The View from the Bench | Download PDF Version of Article

On The Hill: Reducing Recidivism and its Costs

On Feb. 11, Sen. John Cornyn reintroduced the Corrections Oversight, Recidivism Reduction, and Eliminating Costs for Taxpayers in Our National System Act of 2015 (S. 467), a consensus bill, which the Senate Judiciary Committee reported favorably by a vote of 15-2 during the last Congress. Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Charles Grassley has expressed support for the bill and a willingness to schedule an early markup.

Under the bill, an inmate incarcerated in a federal institution who is a first-time offender may earn credits for transfer to prerelease custody under home confinement or community supervision. A candidate for early release must successfully complete a recidivism-reduction program, which includes a broad array of eligible activities listed in the legislation. Nearly two-thirds of inmates convicted in 2013 were repeat offenders and would not be eligible for early release under this bill, though they could earn additional telephone or visitation privileges.

Prisoners determined to have a low risk of recidivism under a to-be-developed Justice Department “Post-Sentencing Risk and Needs Assessment System” may earn double the credit, equal to 10 days for each period of 30 days of successful completion of the program requirements. The risk assessment by the Bureau of Prisons is not judicially reviewable. But the government may move for a judicial hearing if an inmate sentenced to three or more years is placed in prerelease custody.

The bill is designed not only to reduce the reported 66 percent recidivism rate of inmates returning to prison within three years of release, but also to reduce the federal prison population. The upkeep cost of a prisoner is currently $29,000; the total annual bill is more than $6 billion for the 215,000 inmates incarcerated in federal institutions in 2013.

The bill is based on the success of penal reform in several states, including Texas and Rhode Island, which have shown a dramatic decline in the recidivism rate of inmates who completed similar programs and a reduction in the overall number of incarcerated inmates.

Judicial Honors

Hon. Johnnie Blakeney Rawlinson, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, was presented with the Las Vegas Chapter of the National Bar Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award at the bar’s 25th Annual Scholarship Gala last September. Among her many achievements, Rawlinson is the first African American woman to sit on the Ninth Circuit (2000) and a co-founder of the LVNBA (1981). She is an LL.M. candidate at Duke Law.

Hon. Patricia Timmons-Goodson, former Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of North Carolina, was designated by the President as Vice-Chair of the United States Commission on Civil Rights.

Hon. Allyson K. Duncan, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, will become the president of the Federal Judges Association on May 1, 2015. The association is a voluntary association of federal judges appointed under Article III of the Constitution.

United States Tax Court Conference, May 20-22

The 2015 Tax Court Judicial Conference will be held at Duke University in conjunction with the Duke Law Center for Judicial Studies May 20-22, 2015. The purpose of the judicial conference is to consider the business of the Court and to discuss means of improving the administration of justice within the Court’s jurisdiction. The Court’s last conference was nearly five years ago.

In addition to the judges of the U.S. Tax Court, nearly all of whom will be in attendance, the Court has invited representatives from the Internal Revenue Service, the Department of Justice, private practice, low-income taxpayer clinics, academia, Capitol Hill, and other courts. A variety of plenary and breakout sessions will address issues relevant to practice before the Court, including discussion of discovery of electronically stored information, privilege waiver, and uses of unpublished authorities.

More than 300 practitioners and judges are expected to attend. For more information about the conference please see www.law.duke.edu/judicialstudies/conferences/may2015.