Johnson, Carper, Introduce Bill to Improve Criminal Justice System in District of Columbia

Washington Chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) and Ranking Member Tom Carper (D-Del.) on Thursday introduced legislation to authorize the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency to develop and operate incentive programs to help improve outcomes for sentenced offenders who are being reintegrated into society. The agency would be allowed to provide individuals with bus fare to job interviews and to pay fees related to the GED and other modest incentives for offenders who are succeeding in re-entry programs. 

The legislation also allows the District of Columbia Public Defender Service to accept pro bono legal services and accept monetary donations, a common practice for public defender services that will help improve access to quality legal services for residents who otherwise could not afford legal counsel.  Finally, the bill makes technical and conforming amendments to the statutes relevant to the D.C. court system to allow it to collect overpayments to employees and purchase uniforms.  

Chairman Johnson said, “I am happy to introduce this piece of legislation to make modest but important improvements to D.C.’s criminal justice agencies.  Providing a helping hand to former offenders who are trying to reintegrate back into society is a good example of bipartisan reform that our committee can achieve.   Something as simple as bus fare to a job interview or a modest dinner for a family can provide just enough assistance to keep these individuals on track.  As a result,  this kind of release program can help ex-offenders literally turn their lives around, which is why I am happy to support it.” 

Ranking Member Carper said, ““This piece of legislation puts some commonsense reforms into place at the District of Columbia court system, the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency and the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia to help those agencies better serve District residents. Congress doesn’t always do right by the District of Columbia, but this bill is a positive effort to help these agencies operate more efficiently, and in turn be more effective in their vitally important work. I am encouraged by the bipartisan work that went into this bill and I look forward to working with Chairman Johnson and my colleagues in Congress on this and other legislation to get better results for the District of Columbia and across the federal government.” 

 The full text of the bill can be found here