Attorney General Barr Chairs Meeting of the Federal Interagency Council on Crime Prevention and Improving Reentry

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.

* * *

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.

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    Limited nationwide data hinder a comprehensive understanding of the prevalence and costs of workplace sexual harassment. According to GAO's analysis of available federal data and literature review, the few reliable nationwide estimates of sexual harassment's prevalence vary substantially due to differences in methodology, including the question structure and time period the survey used. Moreover, the likelihood of experiencing workplace sexual harassment can vary based on an individual's demographic characteristics—such as gender, race, and age—and whether the workplace is male- or female-dominated. For example, women, younger workers, and women in male-dominated workplaces were more likely to say they experienced harassment. GAO did not find any recent cost estimates of workplace sexual harassment, but identified four broad categories of costs: health, productivity, career, and reporting and legal costs (see figure). Examples of Costs Associated with Workplace Sexual Harassment The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), as part of its mission to prevent and remedy unlawful employment discrimination, maintains data on sexual harassment and retaliation charges filed against employers, but cannot systematically analyze the relationship between the two for all charges filed nationwide. After filing sexual harassment charges or engaging in other protected activity, employees may experience retaliation, such as firing or demotion, and EEOC data show that retaliation charges constitute a growing portion of its workload. EEOC's planning documents highlight its intention to address retaliation and use charge data to inform its outreach to employers. However, while EEOC can review electronic copies of individual charges for details, such as whether a previously filed sexual harassment charge led to a retaliation charge, its data system cannot aggregate this information across all charges. Without the capacity to fully analyze trends in the relationship between sexual harassment and retaliation charges, EEOC may miss opportunities to refine its work with employers to prevent and address retaliation. Experts at GAO's roundtable said nationally representative surveys would help to improve available information on workplace sexual harassment. Expert recommendations focused on three main areas: (1) survey administration and resources, including advantages and disadvantages to various federal roles; (2) methods to collect data, such as using stand-alone surveys or adding questions to existing surveys; and (3) content of data to be collected, including employee and employer characteristics and specific costs. While many workers in the United States experience workplace sexual harassment—resulting in substantial costs to them and their employers—the extent of sexual harassment and the magnitude of its effects are not fully understood. GAO was asked to examine the extent to which reliable information is available on workplace sexual harassment's prevalence and costs. This report examines (1) what is known about the prevalence and costs of U.S. workplace sexual harassment, including the federal workforce, (2) the extent to which EEOC collects sexual harassment data, and (3) data collection approaches experts recommend to improve available information. To address these objectives, GAO analyzed EEOC data and survey data from other federal agencies, interviewed officials and reviewed documentation from multiple federal agencies, and interviewed experts on sexual harassment. GAO also convened a 2-day roundtable of experts, with assistance from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, and conducted a literature review. GAO recommends that EEOC assess the feasibility of systematically analyzing its data on retaliation charges and the associated protected activities, including those related to sexual harassment. EEOC did not state whether or not it concurred with GAO's recommendation. GAO continues to believe this recommendation is appropriate, as discussed in the report. For more information, contact Cindy S. Brown Barnes at (202) 512-7215 or brownbarnesc@gao.gov.
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  • Defense Reform: DOD Has Made Progress, but Needs to Further Refine and Formalize Its Reform Efforts
    In U.S GAO News
    The Department of Defense (DOD) has made progress in establishing valid and reliable cost baselines for its enterprise business operations and has additional efforts ongoing. DOD's January 2020 report responding to section 921 of the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 addressed most of the key requirements from that section but also had some limitations, which DOD acknowledged. For example, the baselines included only labor and information technology costs because DOD's financial data do not attribute costs to other specific activities required under section 921. However, DOD officials told GAO they have developed and are continuing to refine baselines for all of the department's enterprise business operations, such as financial and human resource management, to enable DOD to better track the resources devoted to these operations and the progress of reform. While still in progress, this effort shows promise in addressing the weaknesses in DOD's section 921 report and in meeting the need for consistent baselines for DOD's reform efforts that GAO has previously identified. GAO found that DOD's reported savings of $37 billion from its reform efforts and a Defense-Wide Review to better align resources are largely reflected in its budget materials; however, the savings were not always well documented or consistent with the department's definitions of reform. Specifically: DOD had limited information on the analysis underlying its savings estimates, including (1) economic assumptions, (2) alternative options, and (3) any costs of taking the actions to realize savings, such as opportunity costs. Therefore, GAO was unable to determine the quality of the analysis that led to DOD's savings decisions. Further, some of the cost savings initiatives were not clearly aligned with DOD's definitions of reform, and thus DOD may have overstated savings that came from its reform efforts rather than other sources of savings, like cost avoidance. For example, one initiative was based on the delay of military construction projects. According to DOD officials, this was done to fund higher priorities. But if a delayed project is still planned, the costs will likely be realized in a future year. Without processes to standardize development and documentation of savings and to consistently identify reform savings based on reform definitions, decision makers may lack reliable information on DOD's estimated reform savings. In coordinating its reform efforts, DOD has generally followed leading practices for collaboration, but there is a risk that this collaboration may not be sustained in light of any organizational changes that Congress or DOD may make. This risk is increased because the Office of the Chief Management Officer (OCMO) and other offices have not formalized and institutionalized these efforts through written policies or agreements. Without written policies or formal agreements that define how organizations should collaborate with regard to DOD's reform and efficiency efforts, current progress may be lost, and future coordination efforts may be hindered. DOD spends billions of dollars each year to maintain key business operations. Section 921 of the NDAA for FY 2019 established requirements for DOD to reform these operations and report on their efforts. DOD has also undertaken additional efforts to reform its operations in recent years. Section 921 called for GAO to assess the accuracy of DOD's reported cost baselines and savings, and section 1753 of the NDAA for FY 2020 called for GAO to report on the OCMO's efficiency initiatives. This report assesses the extent to which DOD has (1) established valid and reliable baseline cost estimates for its business operations; (2) established well-documented cost savings estimates reflecting its reforms; and (3) coordinated its reform efforts. GAO assessed documents supporting costs, savings estimates, and coordination efforts; interviewed DOD officials; observed demonstrations of DOD's reform tracking tools; and assessed DOD's efforts using selected criteria. GAO is making three recommendations—specifically, that DOD establish formal processes to standardize development and documentation of cost savings; ensure that reported savings are consistent with the department's definition of reform; and formalize policies or agreements on its reform efforts. DOD concurred with GAO's recommendations. For more information, contact Elizabeth Field at (202) 512-2775 or fielde1@gao.gov.
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  • Statement by Attorney General William P. Barr on the Passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg
    In Crime News
    Attorney General William [Read More…]
  • Hear Audio From NASA’s Perseverance As It Travels Through Deep Space
    In Space
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