Attorney General William P. Barr this morning chaired a principals meeting of the Federal Interagency Council on Crime Prevention and Improving Reentry, which President Trump created by Executive Order in 2018. The Council brings together a dozen federal agencies to develop and implement policies aimed at preventing crime, including innovative re-entry programs designed to reduce recidivism and help former inmates transition productively back to society. The Council is co-chaired by the Attorney General, the Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy, and the Senior Advisor to the President in charge of the White House Office of American Innovation. The Executive Director of the Council is Pastor John “Tony” Lowden, a member of the Department of Justice designated by the Attorney General to coordinate the day-to-day functions of the Council.
This morning’s Council meeting at the White House was attended by Secretary Ben Carson of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Secretary Sonny Perdue of the Department of Agriculture, Secretary Robert Wilkie of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Secretary Betsy DeVos of the Department of Education, Deputy Secretary Justin Muzinich of the Department of the Treasury, Deputy Secretary Patrick Pizzella of the Department of Labor, Director James Carroll of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, and high-level representatives from the Departments of the Interior, Commerce, and Health and Human Services, and the Office of Management and Budget. Attorney General Barr and Deputy Assistant to the President Ja’ron Smith delivered opening remarks, the Council Members reported on their initiatives, and Pastor Lowden discussed next steps for the Council.
The Council also announced the launch of a new website, www.reentry.ojp.gov, which will serve as a one-stop shop for federal re-entry initiatives. The website will enable inmates, family members, employers, and other members of the community to learn about the resources available for prisoners to facilitate a transition to productive, law-abiding members of society.
Attorney General Barr’s opening remarks as prepared for delivery are below.
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Thank you for that introduction, Tony [Lowden], and thank you for your leadership as Executive Director of the Council. As you all know, President Trump created this Council by Executive Order in March 2018, and I am pleased to serve as one of its Co-Chairs. The Executive Order explained that addressing crime requires not only active law enforcement – which the Department of Justice and its partners continue to provide – but also efforts to prevent crime and recidivism in the first place, including by preparing inmates for a productive re-entry into society. That same philosophy is reflected in the landmark First Step Act, which the President signed in 2018 and which the Department of Justice has made a top priority to implement.
I appreciate the dedicated work by the members of this Council from across the government. I look forward to hearing more about your accomplishments and ideas for continued progress. To start things off, I want to share a few statistics illustrating the Department of Justice’s work. Five years ago, the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) housed about 205,000 inmates. When President Trump took office in 2017, the number was about 185,000. Today, the number is about 158,000 – a drop of nearly 25 percent in five years and 15 percent since the President took office.
As Attorney General, I can assure you this reduction did not occur because the Department of Justice has hesitated to prosecute serious federal crimes or to advocate for significant prison sentences in appropriate cases. Rather, the drop has occurred because the Department – in implementing the First Step Act and the President’s direction in establishing this Council – has made it a priority to release prisoners who do not pose a significant threat of recidivism, and who are prepared to re-enter society peacefully and productively. Of particular note, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, BOP has released more than 7,300 inmates – including many older inmates and others in high-risk health categories who do not present a serious threat of crime – to home confinement.
Just as important as those releases, the Department of Justice has undertaken a number of measures to prepare inmates still incarcerated for more productive releases in the future. BOP now has more than 70 evidence-based programs and productive activities aimed at preparing inmates to rebuild their lives. More than 57,000 inmates have participated in drug-treatment programs; more than 21,000 have gained work experience through UNICOR; more than 15,000 have received technical or vocational training; and more than 4,000 have earned a GED.
We have also launched or expanded innovative programs aimed at helping inmates develop and use new skills. Among others, BOP has programs allowing inmates to train service dogs; programs specially designed for the needs of women inmates and veterans; reading programs for inmates with disabilities such as dyslexia and those who speak English as a second language; and the Ready to Work initiative, which helps connect inmates preparing for release with local employers who have a hiring need.
A number of these programs have benefited from collaboration with other agencies, including members of this Council such as the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Labor. I am grateful for your joint efforts on this important priority. And I look forward to continuing to work together to meet the goal the President outlined two years ago: “preventing crime and … ensuring that that the correctional facilities in the United States prepare inmates to successfully re-enter communities as productive, law-abiding members of society.”
Thank you very much.