After passage in the Senate on Tuesday, the First Step Act was passed by the House on Thursday with overwhelming support from both sides of the aisle.
“We can be smart and tough on crime at the same time,” said U.S. Congressman Kevin Brady (R-TX) after voting in favor of the bill.“ A number of provisions in the First Step Act mirror many of the same reforms the Texas legislature has implemented at the state level, which has a proven record of saving tax dollars, reducing crime rates, and lowering Texas’ incarceration rate. “This is no “get out of jail free card,” but a chance for inmates to utilize meaningful employment and training opportunities, and other evidence-based programs to help reduce recidivism. This is a win for the inmates, their families, the taxpayers and our communities. I applaud President Trump and his Administration for making this a priority.”
The First Step Act requires the Department of Justice (DOJ) to construct an individualized risk-and-needs assessment for every offender upon being sentenced. Subsequently, the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) would offer inmates a tailor-made recidivism reduction plan, which could include resources such as mental health care, anger-management courses, vocational training and other resources. If these programs are successfully completed, low and minimum risk prisoners will begin to earn time credits for pre-release custody.
Meanwhile in the Senate, U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) applauded the U.S. Senate’s passage of the First Step Act (S. 756), a bipartisan sentencing and prison reform bill. The bill passed by a vote of 87-12 before passage today in the House. The next step will have it being sent to President Trump’s desk, where he is expected to sign this important legislation into law.
Since arriving in the U.S. Senate in 2011, Senator Paul has been passionate about reforming a broken criminal justice system. Having introduced countless bipartisan bills in previous Congresses and once again in this Congress, Senator Paul will continue to advocate for more change on this matter across the political aisle.
“As a leading voice for criminal justice reform who has introduced and cosponsored nearly a dozen bipartisan bills to fix the problems that still plague our justice system, and someone who has loudly and successfully pushed for getting this important piece of legislation to the Senate floor for a vote, I am absolutely thrilled with tonight’s passage of the First Step Act,” said Sen. Paul. “True to its name, this prison and sentencing reform bill is a much-needed first step toward shifting our focus to rehabilitation and reentry of offenders, rather than taking every person who ever made a mistake with drugs, locking them up, and throwing away the key,” the Senator said in a statement.
For decades this has been a wedge issue of the Democrats to differentiate themselves from Republicans. However, in spite of decades of talking about it, they have taken very little action. The passage of this bill could profoundly impact the voters views of the GOP when it comes to civil liberty issues.
According to NBC News, the measure “contains several changes to the way the federal government treats drug offenders, both those who are in prison now and those who will face a judge in the future… thousands of federal prisoners would have access to more help preparing for life after the end of their sentences. Thousands of well-behaved prisoners would win freedom earlier. And thousands of people who are arrested for drug crimes in the future would become eligible for exemptions from harsh mandatory minimum sentencing laws.”