Rep. Rashida Tlaib sat for an interview Monday with Axios reporter Jonathan Swan to discuss her support of the BREATHE Act, which proposes to empty federal prisons over the course of 10 years.
The act calls on the Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Human Services to make a “roadmap for prison abolition”.
Included in the plan is a “full decarceration of federal detention facilities within 10 years” and “a moratorium on all new federal prison, jail, immigrant and youth detention construction”.
Swan asked Tlaib “To what extent have you wrestled with any potential downsides of releasing into society every single person who’s currently in a federal prison?”
Tlaib responded “Yeah, I think that everyone’s like, ‘Oh my God, we’re going to just release everybody”.
“That’s what the act says,” Swan pointed out. “Yeah, but did you see how many people are mentally ill that are in prison right now?” Tlaib argued.
“But the act you endorsed actually says release everyone in 10 years. … There are like, human traffickers, child sex [predators]. Do you mean that you don’t actually support that? Because you endorsed the bill,” Swan argued.
Tlaib seemed to shrug that off with “oh, I know” before pointing out prisoners suffering from mental illness or substance abuse problems. “Why aren’t you asking me about them?” she asked. “You’re asking me about the human traffickers and others that should be able to be held accountable”.
Swan called the proposal “sweeping”, adding that “It does release everyone”. “Obviously there’s a process of looking at how we can get away from mass incarceration and move toward care first,” Tlaib responded.
Swan also asked Tlaib if she thought everyone could be rehabilitated. “I don’t think so. I’ve been very clear about that,” she said.
“I would have to look at every case individually and figure all of that out,” she added, noting that every person is not the same.