Congress’ First Step Act, which has garnered widespread bipartisan support, has also earned support from some state lawmakers who have had a chance to implement these reforms in Texas. Last week, twenty-two Texas House members penned a letter to Congressional leaders showing their support for the First Step Act.
“As state policymakers, we are writing to voice our support for the First Step Act (H.R.5682/S.3649), introduced by Representatives Collins (GA) and Jeffries (NY) and amended to include sentencing reforms by Senators Grassley (IA) and Durbin (IL). We urge you to advance this legislation to the President’s desk before the end of session,” read the opening of the letter.
They go on to discuss the growing federal prison population and how demands for rehabilitative services far outpace the availability. The group says 16,000 federal prisoners are on the waitlist for basic literacy programs, “this means men and women incarcerated at the federal level aren’t getting sufficient reentry preparation in prison and as a result, our states are less safe,” the group said.
They also acknowledge the need for risk assessment when determining an inmate’s eligibility for release. “We applaud the First Step Act’s requirement to implement this best practice. This legislation requires periodic reassessments to monitor prisoners’ progress, perhaps providing even greater accountability for recidivism reduction than many state policies.”
The letter was signed by State Reps. Kyle Biedermann (R-Fredericksburg), Cesar Blanco (D-El Paso), Terry Canales (D-Edinburg), Drew Darby (R-San Angelo), Barbara Gervin-Hawkins (D-San Antonio), Mary Gonzalez (D-Socorro), Ryan Guillen (D-Rio Grande City), Donna Howard (D-Austin), Celia Israel (D-Austin), Matt Krause (R-Fort Worth), Jeff Leach (R-Plano), Ben Leman (R-Brenham), Joe Moody (D-El Paso), Tom Oliverson (R-Cypress), Ramon Romero (D-Fort Worth), Scott Sanford (R-McKinney), Matt Shaheen (R-Plano), Phil Stephenson (R-Wharton), James White (R-Woodville), Terry M. Wilson (R-Marble Falls), John Wray (R-Waxahachie), and Gene Wu (D-Houston).
The Senate is expected to consider the bill later today.