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Chairman Nadler Statement for the Markup of H.R. 4018

Washington, September 10, 2019

Washington, D.C. – Today, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) delivered the following opening remarks for the markup of H.R. 4018, a criminal justice reform bill regarding elderly offenders: 

“H.R. 4018 is a modest, but important, bill to address an inadvertent drafting error in the Second Chance Act that has prevented elderly and terminally ill offenders who qualify for early release under a pilot program for compassionate release from receiving credit for the ‘good conduct time’ they have accrued while in custody. 

“I applaud the Gentleman from Florida, Mr. Deutch, for taking the lead on this issue and for introducing this bipartisan bill, of which I am a cosponsor, along with a number of other Members of the Committee, including our Ranking Member, Mr. Collins, and the Gentleman from New York, Mr. Jeffries, the sponsors of the First Step Act. 

“Today, more people die of old age in U.S. prisons than ever before.  Of the 1.5 million adults currently in state and federal prisons, there has been a 300 percent spike in the elderly population since 1999.   And from 2001 to 2007 alone, 8,486 people over the age of 55 died behind bars.   

“The Federal Prisoner Reentry Initiative, a pilot program created under the Second Chance Act, allows offenders who are elderly, and who have served at least two thirds of their sentence, to petition for release from prison and to serve their remaining term of imprisonment in a halfway house.  This program is not only humane, it is fiscally responsible.  We imprison elderly inmates unnecessarily and for far too long.  And the data reveal that the recidivism rate is reduced dramatically as the population ages. 

“Good conduct time is provided to all prisoners who have satisfactory behavior in the Bureau of Prisons.  They earn 54 days of good conduct time, or days off their sentence, per year.  However, due to an inadvertent error in the Federal Prisoner Reentry Initiative, elderly inmates are not permitted to receive credit for good conduct.  

“Elderly inmates who otherwise have satisfactory behavior should not lose good conduct time solely as a result of a drafting error.  Such an unjust result was not the intent of Congress when drafting the Second Chance Act, as the intent behind this compassionate program is to release a vulnerable population from prison when they present little risk to their communities. Therefore, I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting this important bill.”
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