When Congress passes its omnibus spending bill this month, it will include funding for a prison reform task force named after the late Prison Fellowship founder and best-selling evangelical author Charles "Chuck" Colson.
The spending bill for fiscal year 2014, which is expected to pass after bipartisan negotiators reached an agreement Monday, will provide $1 million to establish the "Charles Colson Task Force on Federal Corrections."
The task force will include nine people and will be bipartisan. It will be asked to examine: "Facility overcrowding and ways to minimize future growth. Violence, including gang violence, in federal prisons. Prisoner rehabilitation and employment programs. [And,] Reentry programming and policies that reduce recidivism," according to a press release from Justice Fellowship, the public policy arm of Prison Fellowship.
"Chuck Colson's vision of a criminal justice system centered on accountability and redemption has had a lasting impact on those in Congress of both parties," said Craig DeRoche, president of Justice Fellowship. "The Charles Colson Task Force is an important first step in the discussion on how to reform criminal justice beyond the catchy sound bites and overused sports metaphors that have permeated the dialogue in recent years."
Colson, who passed away in 2012, worked for the Nixon White House and was sent to prison amid the Watergate scandal. He became a Christian during that time. After prison, he founded Prison Fellowship, which is now a global organization and the world's largest ministry to prisoners.
Along with his ministry to prisoners, Colson long fought to reform the nation's prison system. Justice Fellowship has continued to fight for those policy goals. Prison Fellowship was one of several advocacy organizations the helped pass the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003.
More lawmakers have recently shown greater interest in prison reform. A coalition of both Republicans and Democrats has begun to form over some common concerns.
One of those concerns has been tough sentencing rules that take discretion away from judges and send offenders to prison for lengthy sentences for even minor offenses. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) are currently working together on a prison reform bill that would address those sentencing concerns.