Senate passes criminal justice reform bill in bipartisan victory

Senate passes criminal justice reform bill in bipartisan victory

Senate passes criminal justice reform bill in bipartisan victory

Congratulations to the Senate on the bi-partisan passing of a historic Criminal Justice Reform Bill....

Leaders of the U.S. House said they expect the Bill to pass their chamber this week so President Trump can sign it into law.

Earlier this year, the House passed a bipartisan bill focusing on prison reforms, which did not include sentencing reforms. "When both parties work together we can keep our Country safer".

The First Step Act would give federal judges more leeway when sentencing some drug offenders and boost prisoner rehabilitation efforts. For example, it reduces the life sentence for some drug offenders with three convictions, or "three strikes", to 25 years.

Republican Sen. Tom Cotton has been a vocal opponent of the bill, and added amendments which would have barred more felons from participating in the bill's earned-time credit program, along with other hard-line proposals. According to government figures, that alone would impact over 2,600 inmates.

"Since 1980, the federal prison population has grown by over 700 percent", Illinois Democrat Dick Durbin said. "We're investing in the men and women who want to turn their lives around once they're released from prison, and we're investing in so doing in stronger and more viable communities, and we're investing tax dollars into a system that helps produce stronger citizens".

"This is something I have believed in for a long time", said House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis.

Inmates walk the exercise yard at the California Medical Facility in Vacaville California
Inmates walk the exercise yard at the California Medical Facility in Vacaville California

"Rather than have a list of offenses that did not qualify, I think the better approach would have been to have a list of offenses that did qualify for the program", Rubio said. They note that this only applies to federal prisons and courts, which should be obvious to anyone with a decent civics education, and ... well ... that's why CBS needed to make that plain, in fairness.

It also incentivizes prisoners to participate in programs created to reduce the risk of recidivism, with the reward being an earlier release to either home confinement or a halfway house to complete their sentence.

The bill had a unique combination of support from evangelicals, fiscal conservatives and liberals, all agreeing that the nation's prisons are warehousing too many nonviolent prisoners and that it was taking an excessive toll on families and taxpayers. It prohibits prisoners convicted of a wide range of serious offenses from earning such credits and gaining earlier release.

Mark Holden, who chairs the group Freedom Partners, which is the political umbrella group of the Koch brothers, said he hoped to change Sasse's mind on future reforms.

Alaska's other GOP senator, Dan Sullivan, also voted against the bill citing concerns about "the complexities Alaska is facing with criminal justice reform, collectively known as SB91 in Alaska, along with skyrocketing crime rates and an evolving opioid and drug crisis". His stance was all the more unusual given that Deb Fischer, his fellow home state GOP senator, endorsed the legislation after visiting "numerous law enforcement and judicial officials in Nebraska".

"It's not going to impact mass incarceration", said Kim Ball.

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