The House Appropriations Committee took an initial step yesterday toward barring an estimated 150,000 prisoners nationwide from participating in a federally funded jobs training program reportedly abused by some inmates at Lorton Reformatory.
In a unanimous voice vote, the committee adopted language that would prohibit any money from 1980 funds set aside for the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA) from being paid to incarcerated offenders. The measure is expected to be acted on by the full House later this month, and if passed, must go to the Senate and the White House.
Rep. John J. Cavanaugh (D-Neb.) sought the sanction after learning that the District of Columbia had paid more than $200,000 in CETA funds last year to 27 Lorton inmates, including some not eligible for release for another eight to 24 years. The program is designed to provide jobs and job training for disadvantaged persons.
In March, Mayor Marion Barry instituted new directives at Lorton that permit only those persons eligible from release within 18 months to participate in the program and set limits on the amount of money that can be earned.The restriction adopted by the House committee yesterday would bar even those persons, however, and impose a blanket prohibition on inmate participation in the program.
Cavanaugh said through a spokeswoman that he would try to amend the measure to allow funds to be paid to persons in halfway houses and bona fide work release programs or assigned to prerelease centers as well as ex-offenders.
Last week, Cavanaugh announced that the General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress, had launched a preliminary nationwide inquiry into the payment of CETA funds to incarcerated inmates.
Cavanaugh also has asked U.S. Secretary of Labor Ray Marshall to require the District to refund all $200,000 paid to the inmates. But as of last week, Marshall had not responded to that request.