WASHINGTON – The Sentencing Project’s Sentencing Reform Counsel Liz Komar released the following statement in response to Senator Durbin’s and Senator Grassley’s introduction today of the Safer Detention Act of 2023, criminal justice reform legislation extending early release opportunities to elderly people in federal prisons:
“With the First Step Act, Congress demonstrated its bipartisan, common-sense understanding that after people have been held accountable, demonstrated rehabilitation, and made clear that they pose little risk to the community, it is in the public interest to give them a second chance. We applaud Senators Durbin and Grassley for building on that progress by introducing the Safer Detention Act. A wealth of criminological evidence shows that people age out of crime and that lengthy prison sentences keep people behind bars long after they have demonstrated full rehabilitation and readiness to successfully reenter society.
The Safer Detention Act reflects that evidence by expanding opportunities for elderly individuals to leave prison. People sentenced for offenses committed prior to Nov. 1, 1987 are currently cruelly and arbitrarily excluded from compassionate release despite being one of the oldest and sickest populations in federal prisons. The bill would rectify that egregious error, as well as expand a home detention pilot program for elderly people convicted of non-violent offenses.
The federal prison population has dramatically grown over the last 40 years, from 25,000 imprisoned people in 1980 to 160,000 today. Fortunately, today’s count represents a 27% reduction from 2013, when the population was at its peak level of 219,000 people. But the federal prison population is again on the rise and elderly individuals represent the fastest-growing portion of the federal prison population. The Safer Detention Act is a vital measure to help halt and reverse that troubling trend.”