At an event at the White House recently, President Donald Trump threw his support behind the “First Step Act,” a bipartisan effort to reform the nation’s criminal justice system.
The First Step Act, as the name implies, is the start of an effort to transform the country’s federal criminal justice system. It addresses much needed reforms in both prison and sentencing.
For prison, it bans the shackling of pregnant women, ensures that inmates are placed in facilities within 500 miles driving distance from family, provides ID cards upon release, and is due to retroactive credits. It also creates an earned time credit system that allows inmates to earn ten days of credit for every 30 days of programming, shortening their sentences and allowing them to complete sentences in alternative housing facilities.
As far as sentencing, the law would end what’s known as “stacking” or handing down disproportionate sentences, and would reduce mandatory minimums for those convicted of nonviolent drug felonies.
“Our whole Nation benefits if former inmates are able to reenter society as productive, law-abiding citizens, “said President Trump
The legislation has won praise across the spectrum: the President, police groups, criminal justice advocates, and legislators from both parties have all come together to support the effort.
The legislation is comprised of successful reforms seen in states around the country. Congress wanted to address the reality that the overwhelming majority of incarcerated people will return to their communities at some point and it is wiser to return them better than how they left.
Right on Crime, a national campaign for criminal justice reform, applauded the President’s support of the First Step Act:
“Across the country, conservative states like Texas, Georgia, South Carolina and Utah have passed similar reforms to what is included in the First Step Act. Even though these states have reduced their prison populations, crime rates continue to be near decade lows. Equipped with this knowledge, Republican lawmakers at the federal level want to follow suit and pass the most comprehensive reforms to the federal system in our lifetime,” they said.
The First Step Act passed the House in May with a vote of 360-59 and is expected to be taken up in the Senate in the near future.