The Office of Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) today announced Senate passage of a bill to reauthorize the U.S. Parole Commission (USPC) for five years, ensuring continuation of the agency with jurisdiction over D.C. Code felons on parole or under supervised release. Norton pressed for a minimum five-year reauthorization to provide greater certainty and consistency for the Commission to function rather than its prior two-year reauthorizations. The bill now goes to the President for his signature.
"I am pleased that we were able to get a somewhat longer reauthorization," said Norton. "However, considering that the USPC now has continuing responsibilities for D.C. Code felons and certain federal offenders, it is important to stabilize this important public safety agency with the same permanent authorization as other federal law enforcement agencies. Congressional reauthorizations have not caught up with the significant new jurisdiction Congress gave the Parole Commission with more than 17,800 D.C. Code felons. The periodic authorizations date back to a time when federal parole was abolished and Congress believed that the Commission would go out of existence. The Revitalization Act, however, guarantees the Parole Commission will have continuing responsibilities, particularly jurisdiction over D.C. Code felons."
Norton also noted the importance of permanent reauthorization, or at least a considerably longer reauthorization period, in light of the serious legal issues raised by federal courts, including due process and ex post facto issues, when expiration approaches, as Congress tends to address this bill near a reauthorization deadline. At the request of the District of Columbia, the federal government, in 1997, assumed the cost of certain state functions from D.C., including the supervision and housing of D.C. Code felons. Norton worked closely with the House and Senate Judiciary committees on the bill because of the USPC's responsibility for D.C. Code felons. The USPC also has jurisdiction over federal offenders and is chaired by Isaac Fulwood, former D.C. Chief of Police, who Norton recommended for the Commission in 2004.
"The Parole Commission has thrived because of the outstanding work and innovations introduced by Chairman Isaac Fulwood, a distinguished former D.C. Police Chief," said Norton. "The reauthorization gives the Commission the longer-term stability it needs to continue to succeed and improve in the future."
Norton said that she appreciated the work of Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Patrick Leahy (D-VT) in getting the bill through the Senate. She also thanked House Judiciary Committee Chair Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and Ranking Member John Conyers (D-MI), as well as Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security Chair Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) and Ranking Member Bobby Scott (D-VA), for their work on getting the bill passed in the House earlier this month.