Monday, March 17, 2014

Group using prison labor tries to influence mandatory minimum bill

A group that uses prison labor to make money has appeared on lobby disclosure forms reviewed by Republic Report. Prison labor companies are attempting to influence a bill to reduce mandatory minimum sentencing .
The group is called the Correctional Vendors Association, an organization that represents companies that use prison labor to produce everything from furniture to clothing goods. CVA has spent $240,000 on lobbying over the past year, and forms show the organization is interested in shaping the outcome of the Justice Safety Valve Act, or S.619, a bill proposed Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Rand Paul (R-KY) to allow judges to impose a sentence below the mandatory minimum in certain drug-related cases.
The prison labor group, which is managed and represented by a lobbying firm called the Leonard Group, has refused to answer multiple e-mails and phone calls from Republic Report which has attempted to reach the Leonard Group for comment since early January.
The Republic Report e-mailed every major group working to pass the Justice Safety Valve Act, and no one could tell us what the Correctional Vendors Association is up to.
“I don’t know its position, and I don’t know who they’ve been lobbying,” says Molly Gill, a lobbyist for Families Against Mandatory Minimums, when asked about the efforts of the Correctional Vendors Association.
“Our government affairs counsel doesn’t recall running across these folks,” says Larry Akey of the Constitution Project.
Other groups working on mandatory minimum reform were similarly puzzled. “I do not know,” says Bill Piper of the Drug Policy Alliance. “Interesting that they would be lobbying on this though.”
“I don’t, Lee, but I bet we can both guess,” replied Thomas Sussman of the American Bar Association.
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