Congressional Criminal Justice Task Force Aims to Improve Federal Corrections System

Prison Fellowship President and CEO Appointed to Bipartisan Task Force Named for Organization's Founder, Chuck Colson

In the wake of a nationwide conversation on criminal justice sparked by controversies in Ferguson, Missouri, and New York City, today at the U.S. Capitol Building, former U.S. Representatives J.C. Watts Jr. and Alan Mollohan announced the formation of the new Charles Colson Task Force on Federal Corrections. Among the nine bipartisan members of the task force is Prison Fellowship President and CEO Jim Liske, who leads the world’s largest outreach to prisoners. The committee’s namesake, the late Charles Colson, founded Prison Fellowship in 1976. Watts and Mollohan will chair and vice chair the task force, which has been mandated by Congress to examine challenges in the federal corrections system and develop practical, data‐driven policy responses.

“Part of Chuck Colson's legacy is many significant reforms to our nation's ailing criminal justice system through the work of Justice Fellowship, Prison Fellowship's criminal justice reform advocacy arm," said Liske. "There is much work to be done to ensure that our federal corrections system is just. To be so, corrections should be restorative for victims, communities and those behind bars, and not merely punitive."

The task force on federal corrections was established by Congress earlier this year and named in honor of Colson, the former aide to President Nixon. After serving time in a federal prison camp for his role in Watergate, Colson founded Prison Fellowship to honor a promise made to his fellow inmates that he would help those behind bars and their families to break the cycle of crime that plagues our communities.

The task force will convene in January 2015 and hold five meetings. Its members will identify factors leading to federal prison population growth and increasing corrections costs; evaluate policy options to address those factors and identify recommendations; and prepare and submit a final report in December 2015 with findings, conclusions, policy recommendations, and draft legislation for consideration by Congress, the attorney general and the president.

The Urban Institute and its partner, the Center for Effective Public Policy, is providing research, analysis, strategic guidance and logistical support to the task force through a cooperative agreement with the Bureau of Justice Assistance, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice.

Working with members of Congress, Colson and Justice Fellowship helped pass groundbreaking justice reforms including:

  • Religious Freedom Restoration Act (1993)

  • Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (2000)

  • Prison Rape Elimination Act (2003)

  • Second Chance Act (2009)

  • Fair Sentencing Act (2010)

MEDIA NOTE: Jim Liske is available to discuss the Colson Task Force, its mission, Chuck Colson’s accomplishments in prison reform and the hopes for how the task force will address the issues underlying our national conversation about criminal justice.