Congress just approved bipartisan criminal justice reform that will be considered a victory by the Trump administration. The bill passed The House approved bill 358-36, sending to the president’s desk for his signature. The legislation passed the Senate earlier this week 87-12, and will be a win for President Trump as well as his senior advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner, who has advocated for this bill in the face of resistance from Conservatives.
The First Step Act enables federal judges more lenient when dealing out sentences to some drug offenders and attempts to focus more rehabilitation efforts. The bill also aims to reduce the life sentences of some drug offenders with “three strikes” to 25 years.
An additional provision in the bill would allow about 2,600 prisoners who have been federally sentenced for crack cocaine-related offenses before August 2010 the opportunity to petition to have their sentences reduced. It also incentivizes prisoners to participate in programs that aim at reducing their chance of recidivism, rewarding prisoners with either home confinement or being sent to halfway house for the duration of their sentence. This opportunity will not be afforded to offenders who were also charged with violent firearm offenses, sexual exploitation of children, or high-level heroin or fentanyl dealing. These changes are aimed at addressing increasing national concerns with America’s war on drugs and its increasing prison population due to drug-related offenses.
It’s also possible that prisoners could receive seven days of credit for good behavior that will take a week off an offenders sentence for every year of good behavior. The bill also expands the eligibility of an early release for prisoners who are elderly or terminally ill.
After the passage of the bill, President Trump took to Twitter to congratulate everyone on this bipartisan achievement.
Congress just passed the Criminal Justice Reform Bill known as the #FirstStepAct. Congratulations! This is a great bi-partisan achievement for everybody. When both parties work together we can keep our Country safer. A wonderful thing for the U.S.A.!!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 20, 2018
When the bill passed the Senate it had the support of many ardent Democratic opponents of the president, including Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.) who said quote, “But for the first time in a long time, with the passage of this bill into law, our country will make a meaningful break from the decades of failed policies that led to mass incarceration, which has cost taxpayers billions of dollars, drained our economy, compromised public safety, hurt our children and disproportionately harmed communities of color while devaluing the very idea of justice in America.”
The bill passed comfortably with a majority in both houses but was opposed strongly by some conservatives led by Senator Tom Cotton, (R-Ark.) who introduced amendments to the bill that include requiring victims to be notified before a prisoner’s release. He previously called the bill a “jail-break” over fears that the bill would release violent offenders too early.