Walker Gives Opening Statement at Oversight Hearing on Criminal Justice Reform
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Representative Mark Walker (R-N.C.) today gave the opening statement for a Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hearing on "Oversight of the Bureau of Prisons and Inmate Reentry." Walker has made criminal justice reform a legislative priority, calling for Congress to act swiftly on the issue, and forging coalitions across the aisle, including with the Congressional Black Caucus.
“Families are the building blocks of communities,” Walker said at the hearing. “It is hard to imagine anything more disruptive to a family than losing a parent or spouse to incarceration."
“Redemption has always been an American ideal,” Walker added. “We need former prisoners to integrate back into society, restore stability to their families, and contribute to their communities."
Following Walker's opening statement, U.S. Representative Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) praised Walker for his work on criminal justice reform.
“Congressman Walker, I want to applaud you for what you said and what you do in this area,” Cummings said. “You said some very important words. You said whatever we do with regard to these folks, it has to be real and it has to be effective."
You can watch Walker's remarks above and read the full transcript below:
"Families are the building blocks of communities. It is hard to imagine anything more disruptive to a family than losing a parent or spouse to incarceration. To have a parent removed from your life and sent to prison must be an overwhelmingly difficult experience for both the inmate and the family.
"I can still remember as a young child, being the son of a pastor who was also a prison chaplain, still sitting on the bunks of those inmates, in many cases hearing the sad stories.
"Now, make no mistake, I firmly believe that when people break the law there must be consequences, and incarceration is often times the appropriate consequence. However, the Justice System and the Bureau of Prisons also have a responsibility to help rehabilitate that person and help that inmate have a successful reentry back into our communities. This makes sense from both a public safety perspective and one out of compassion for our fellow citizens. Because what is clear is that virtually all of the inmates in federal prison are going back to return to their communities and their families.
"When they are released, the question should be asked, will they be better, or will they be worse? You see, redemption has always been an American ideal. We need former prisoners to integrate back into society, restore stability to their families, and contribute to their communities.
"Inmate release preparation and programming is essential to developing and restoring hope. Hope that they will never return to prison. Hope that they will find a job. Hope that they will be able to support their family. Hope that they will build a good life after prison. For that reason, rehabilitation and reentry efforts must be real and they must be effective.
"Three weeks ago, I spoke in Winston-Salem, North Carolina at a wonderful nonprofit organization, the Winston-Salem Prison Ministry, doing a great job. But, the Bureau of Prisons must also make successful inmate rehabilitation and reentry a priority.
"The Bureau must also evaluate its programs and reentry decisions so that their effectiveness can be measured based on evidence of success. We have got to figure out what reentry and rehabilitation strategies work best.
"Does release to a halfway house improve an inmates’ chances at successful reentry? Are some Halfway houses more effective than others at assisting inmates to succeed? Would placing more inmates directly into home confinement reduce recidivism? Do certain education or life skills programs tend to lead to a more successful inmate reentry?
"These are all questions I look forward to discussing today. I believe that evidence based assessments are essential to determine what programs work well at reducing recidivism and what programs simply do not work well.
"I am grateful for all the witnesses here today. I appreciate your expertise. Reducing recidivism and improving inmate reentry services is a challenge, but it is one we must all be committed to achieving."