Demri Scott

ATR Supports the FAIR Act

Share on Facebook
Tweet this Story
Pin this Image

Posted by Demri Scott on Monday, April 1st, 2019, 8:57 AM PERMALINK

Today, the government can take your property even if there isn’t a criminal conviction, or charge through civil asset forfeiture. As a result, victims of civil asset forfeiture are held to a complicated process where they are forced to fight for the innocence and legality of their property.

Many innocent Americans never see their property after the government confiscates it. A ten year report that ended in 2016 found that only 8% of all property owners who had seized cash had it returned, while 92% of victims did not see a cent of their money go back in their own pockets.

The government is turning more and more to seized assets using civil asset forfeiture. In 1986, the Department of Justice took in $93.7 million in deposits from civil asset forfeiture and by 2014, deposits had increased to $4.5 billion, a 4,667 percent spike. 

It is clear the government leeches off of civil asset forfeiture, and the problem is only getting worse.

Recently, Congressmen Tim Walberg, Tom McClintock, and Thomas Massie, Jamie Raskin, Tony Cardenas, and Bobby Rush introduced the Fifth Amendment Integrity Restoration Act (FAIR Act, H.R. 1895) which would bring us closer to ending civil asset forfeiture by creating basic guidelines for confiscated property and increasing the federal burden of proof. Under the FAIR Act, there must be a substantial connection between the property and the offense, the owner of the seized property must be the perpetrator and the property must be intentionally used to commit the crime. Increasing the burden of proof would ensure that only convicted criminals, not law-abiding civilians, pay the price for broken laws.

The bill eliminates Equitable Sharing, a federal program that is ripe for abuse. The program allows local and state law enforcement officials to maneuver around state laws that ban civil asset forfeiture. The federal government briefly imposed some limits on equitable sharing and civil asset forfeiture under Attorney General Eric Holder but the government shifted course under Attorney General Jeff Sessions by bringing back the program.

The FAIR Act would also limit the IRS from taking money from Americans’ bank accounts. Structuring allows the IRS to take funds from a bank account when authorities suspect that deposits to the account are made in a way designed to avoid reporting laws. The FAIR Act would only allow forfeiture if the owner of the funds knowingly made the deposits in a way to avoid federal laws.

The FAIR Act would help restore due process to seized assets. ATR calls for all members of Congress to support the bill. Americans can’t afford for the government to indiscriminately take property without due process.

Photo Credit: Chris Potter


End Duplicative Taxes Online

Share on Facebook
Tweet this Story
Pin this Image

Posted by Demri Scott on Wednesday, March 13th, 2019, 4:18 PM PERMALINK

Today, Congressmen Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) and John Ratcliffe (R-Texas) introduced the Digital Goods and Services Tax Fairness Act, a bill to ensure that digital goods and services do not receive duplicative taxes.

Since technology is advancing at such a rapid pace and we are becoming more and more interconnected through the internet, Congress needs to ensure that single transactions online aren’t taxed multiple times.

For example, a customer based in Nebraska, who digitally purchases a good from California, where the transaction goes through a server in Wyoming, could be subject to taxation from all three states.

The legislation would ensure that digital goods, like MP3 downloads, would not receive discriminatory taxes compared to their physical counterparts. State and local governments would not be allowed to apply taxes to products that do not apply to similar tangible goods, similar to the provisions of the Internet Tax Freedom Act, which became law in 2016.  

A Senate version of the bill was also introduced today by Senators John Thune (R-S.D.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).

The Digital Goods and Services Tax Fairness Act understands that the internet is inherently borderless. If signed into law, the bill would ensure that only one jurisdiction has the power to tax the sale of digital products, so Americans do not receive duplicative taxes for digital goods.

The bill was initially proposed in 2011 but has not been signed into law. While the 115th Congress version of the bill was introduced at the end of 2018, the 114th Congress version of the bill made it through four separate committees and a mark-up before being ordered to be amended in June of 2015. The Senate bill was read twice then referred to the Committee on Finance.

ATR and Digital Liberty support this legislation in order to prevent double taxation and for establishing digital tax borders across the fifty states.

Photo Credit: Glenda Alvarez


American Leadership Critical in Race to 5G

Share on Facebook
Tweet this Story
Pin this Image

Posted by Demri Scott on Tuesday, February 12th, 2019, 1:52 PM PERMALINK

Nearly 20 years ago, many of the innovations we know, and love were simply figments of the imagination. But today, with the growth of technology, we have ride sharing, online dating and even AI technologies are starting to take off.

Many of these changes were facilitated by American leadership from 3G to 4G, which reflects the importance of winning the global race to 5G. Now that 5G, the next generation of connectivity,  is on the horizon, it will change our lives forever with new innovations, if we let it.  

Demri Scott, Fellow at Digital Liberty, a sister organization of Americans for Tax Reform, wrote an op-ed in the Daily Caller, detailing the importance of winning the race to 5G.

Scott explains that: “The U.S. won the global race to 4G, which facilitated the rise of ride sharing, online dating, and social media thanks to increased data speeds on cell phones. These new innovations brought a boost in our economy that increased GDP by $100 billion annually. Now, we’re slated to revolutionize our lives with the advent of 5G, and we can’t afford to lose the race against our competitors.”

And that, “The problem is that we aren’t the only team on the field that wants to get to more innovations faster. Countries like China desperately want to be the first to 5G after seeing the American successes brought by 4G. China has outspent the U.S. by $24 billion and built 350,000 new sites for their 5G network. Ultimately the U.S. needs to keep up the pace with global competitors to receive all of the benefits of getting 5G service.”

To read more of the op-ed click here

Photo Credit: Lourdes Muñoz Santamaria


The Internet Is Thriving After the "Net Neutrality" Repeal

Share on Facebook
Tweet this Story
Pin this Image

Posted by Demri Scott on Monday, February 4th, 2019, 10:29 AM PERMALINK

Now that it’s been more than a year since the FCC repealed the so-called net neutrality regulations, it is clear that the doom and gloom rhetoric surrounding the regulatory repeal was wrong.

Under the veil of “net neutrality,” the Obama-era FCC applied outdated utility-style regulation on a flourishing internet once meant for copper wires in the 1930s. Investment in the economy stagnated after the FCC slapped on “net neutrality” regulations and reclassified Internet Service Providers as a utility in 2015. Fortunately, since the repeal investment is coming back into the market and Americans continue to be protected at the Federal Trade Commission.

Digital Liberty’s Demri Scott wrote an op-ed in the Washington Examiner on the events since the repeal, explaining that:

“While the numbers show that the market lost out big time after the Obama FCC imposed “net neutrality” regulations, there is also an intangible cost to the net neutrality fight. The time and resources used for ‘net neutrality’ could have been used to help close the digital divide, get us closer to winning the race to 5G, and addressing concerns about data privacy. Thankfully the current FCC is shifting its focus to goals that keep the United States a global leader in connectivity while ensuring that regulations do not get in the way of deploying next-generation technologies.”

Scott goes on to explain that:

“Americans deserve much better than a petty regulatory fight over legal definitions. The constant battle on net neutrality underscores that ultimately, we will need legislation that reaffirms Pai’s stance toward Internet freedom. Americans simply can’t afford to play regulatory ping-pong between the FCC and the FTC, relitigating net neutrality every time a new administration comes into office.”

To read more of Scott’s op-ed click here

 

Kid Vid Coalition Letter

Photo Credit: Lourdes Muñoz Santamaria


First Step Act Signed into Law

Share on Facebook
Tweet this Story
Pin this Image

Posted by Demri Scott on Monday, January 7th, 2019, 9:51 AM PERMALINK

At the end of 2018, President Donald Trump signed the First Step Act, a broadly bipartisan set of prison and sentencing reforms, into law. The First Step Act overwhelmingly passed with a 87-12 favorable vote in the Senate and a 358-36 favorable vote in the House. The new law is the product of nearly a decade of justice reform advocacy efforts and includes the most sweeping set of reforms since 2010.

The following can be attributed to Grover Norquist, President of Americans for Tax Reform:

“The First Step Act could have died a thousand times. But it didn’t thanks to the consistent support of advocates on and off of the Hill.

We know there is still a long road ahead, but the most important step is the first one. I look forward to what we can accomplish in the future such as reforms to civil asset forfeiture and mens rea and congratulate everyone who helped make the First Step Act Law.”

The new law incentivizes recidivism reduction programming by providing time release credits to low-risk, non-violent offenders. Under the new law, qualified inmates can receive 10 days of credits for every 30 days of recidivism reduction programming. Participants can cash out their credits by going to a halfway house or through in-home confinement. Now that the bill is law, thousands have the opportunity to complete recidivism reduction programming in exchange for time credits.

The new law will positively impact public safety. If the goal of prison is to ensure that offenders can be rehabilitated, we should ensure that individuals have the tools in place to become positive participants in society.

While the bill was in the Senate, sentencing reforms were added to the bill package that limit stacked charges and allow offenders to petition their release consistent with new sentencing laws under the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, in addition to other reforms.

Groups from both sides of the aisle supported the First Step Act from the bill’s inception to the moment it was signed into law. In addition to the sponsors of the bill, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Senator Dick Durbin (D- IL), Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas), Senator Whitehouse (D-RI), Congressman Doug Collins (R-Ga-09) and Congressman Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY-08), there was a huge coalition of support within Congress and the President endorsed the package, proving that criminal justice reform is an issue where Congress can work in a bipartisan fashion.

Photo Credit: Chris Potter

More from Americans for Tax Reform


Text Tax? Not Happening under this FCC.

Share on Facebook
Tweet this Story
Pin this Image

Posted by Demri Scott on Friday, January 4th, 2019, 1:40 PM PERMALINK

California’s never-ending war on tech and telecommunications may have hit a road bump—the FCC.

At the end of 2018, reports floated that the California Public Utilities Commission was considering a plan to charge a tax for text messaging of about 70 cents for every $10 of text revenues. Some estimate that the tax would cost texters $44.5 million per year. To make matters worse, the state sought to retroactively apply the proposal, taxing texts as far back as five years ago and costing California texters more than $220 million.

Many Californians were rightfully outraged. Some worried that the tax would have unintended consequences like disincentivizing low-income users from texting. The proposal also would have taxed traditional SMS, while other messaging services such as iMessage, Whatsapp would remain untaxed, further complicating the user experience.

But just in the nick of time, one of the FCC’s last acts of 2018, an item on robotexts, prevented California from even taking up this ridiculous proposal.

In response to a petition from mass texting service Twilio, the FCC formally reaffirmed the regulatory definition of mobile messaging by classifying messaging as an information service, not a telecommunications service.

The Telecommunications Act of 1996 limits state authority of information services. Since texting is an information service, California could not tax text messaging.

Instead of fighting to maintain the text tax proposal, California responded nearly immediately by pulling the proposal from consideration—a huge win for American taxpayers.

The FCC’s ruling initially focused on ensuring that consumers do not see an influx of spam text messages but it is clear that the decision to reaffirm texting as an information service is multifaceted.

Historically, SMS has a much lower spam rate than other services, such as email. This is not a coincidence. Carriers are able to filter out spam messages because of the regulatory definitions in place. By maintaining the regulatory definition of SMS the FCC ensured that carriers could still filter out phishing and unwanted messages.

If the FCC changed the regulatory definition of texting to a telecommunications service, it also would have meant that different messaging services like iMessage would have received different regulations than SMS. Simply put blue and green text messages should not be subject to different regulations.

Revenue from the text tax would have gone towards a program that subsidizes phone service. The CPUC currently imposes a surcharge on telecommunications services. Since 2011, revenues in the telecommunications tax have declined from $16 billion to $11.2 billion last year. The CPUC sought to close the gap in revenue by taxing text messages.

Photo Credit: GotCredit

More from Americans for Tax Reform


First Step Act is the Right Thing to Do

Share on Facebook
Tweet this Story
Pin this Image

Posted by Demri Scott on Friday, December 14th, 2018, 12:19 PM PERMALINK

A broadly bipartisan group of people agree that we cannot continue on the path we are on with our criminal justice system.

We are throwing too many people into prison for non-violent crimes, tearing up families, spending billions in the process and, to top it off, prisoners continue to go back to prison because they are not provided the tools they need while behind bars.

Simply put, criminal justice reform is a conservative issue because the monetary and human costs of our prison system are way too high. Conservatives should be behind the recidivism reduction programs and the sentencing reforms in the First Step Act wholeheartedly.  

As Demri Scott, of Americans for Tax Reform and Digital Liberty wrote in the Daily Caller:

“In a time of partisan politics, it’s hard to imagine that any issue could unite Democrats and Republicans.

Yet people such as Kim Kardashian and Michelle Malkin, and groups including the Fraternal Order of Police, the Baltimore Ravens and the Faith and Freedom Coalition all agree on one thing: The need for criminal justice reform and the First Step Act, a key bill working its way through the Senate….

There’s a reason the [First Step Act] is so bipartisan. It’s because it’s objectively the right thing to do.”

Scott goes on to explain that,

“On average, it costs $80 a day and around $30,000 a year to incarcerate someone. The federal prison population alone costs taxpayers more than $7 billion annually, up from less than $1 billion in 1980. Since taxpayer dollars are limited, we should not be wasting money on keeping individuals who do not pose a threat to society behind bars.”

The bill is sponsored by Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) in the Senate and has more than 30 co-sponsors from both parties. The House version of the bill is sponsored by Congressman Doug Collins (R- Ga.) in the House (H.R.5682) and has a bipartisan array of cosponsors. The House overwhelmingly passed the FIRST STEP Act in May under a 360-59 favorable vote. On December 13, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell filed cloture on the bill but it awaits further action on the Senate floor.

To read more of Scott’s op-ed click here.

 

 

ATR Signs Coalition Letter on First Step Act

Photo Credit: Chris Porter

More from Americans for Tax Reform


Congress: Time to Right a Wrong on Criminal Justice

Share on Facebook
Tweet this Story
Pin this Image

Posted by Demri Scott on Monday, December 10th, 2018, 11:12 AM PERMALINK

The human and monetary costs of continuing down the path we are on now are way too high. Today, there are over 2 million individuals in prison. Over 180,000 of those people are in federal prison, which is more than any one state’s prison population. While the prison incarceration rate is at a 20 year low, the United States still incarcerates a larger share of its population than any other country in the world.

To make matters worse, many times the only way a non-violent offender can receive any sort of justice is if they receive a presidential commutation or court reduced sentence, often times with the help of a celebrity.

That is why we need the First Step Act, a comprehensive bipartisan bill that gives non-violent and low-risk prisoners the opportunity to receive the justice they deserve.

Rather than simply warehousing offenders, the bill requires the Bureau of Prisons to create risk assessment tools to evaluate each inmate. Low risk offenders are then given the option of undergoing evidence-based programming to help break the cycle of criminality. Inmates earn time credits, which allows them to spend some time of their sentence in prerelease custody, an alternative for low risk offenders that not only helps them reintegrate into society under supervision, but also reduces costs to taxpayers. The bill also includes modest sentencing reforms to ensure that low-level and non-violent offenders receive time that better fits the crime.

Demri Scott of Americans for Tax Reform and Digital Liberty wrote an op-ed in the Washington Examiner, detailing why we need the First Step Act. Scott writes that,

“Keeping nonviolent and low-risk criminals in prison has human and monetary costs that we simply cannot afford to ignore.

To make matters worse, many times a presidential commutation or a court-reduced sentence, advocated for by a celebrity, is the only way a nonviolent, low-risk offender can receive any sort of justice when a hugely long sentence does not fit the crime…

Simply warehousing people for decades for nonviolent crimes with little way out, except for celebrity support, is ruining lives while also draining valuable taxpayer dollars. We need sentencing reform and the First Step Act because everyone worthy of release doesn’t have the Kardashians and Snoop Doggs of the world going to bat for us”

To read the rest of the op-ed click here.

Photo Credit: JoshuaDavisPhotography


The US needs Sentencing Reform and the First Step Act

Share on Facebook
Tweet this Story
Pin this Image

Posted by Demri Scott on Friday, November 2nd, 2018, 10:57 AM PERMALINK

In August, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) met with President Trump to add new reforms to the Formerly Incarcerated Reenter Society Transformed Safely Transitioning Every Person (FIRST STEP) Act.

 

The bill proposes recidivism reduction programs for minimal and low-risk offenders by providing time-release credits to inmates who participate in rehabilitative programs. While the bill passed the House under a 360 - 59 favorable vote, there are still more reforms that can be added to the bill package.

 

Among the proposals suggested by Senator Grassley include retroactive application of the Fair Sentencing Act, updating stacked charges and the safety valve. Many of the proposed changes to the FIRST STEP Act are included in the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act (S.1917), which already passed the Senate Judiciary Committee and awaits action on the floor. While the physical text of the new sentencing reforms are still being written, the SRCA provides a good example of what we might see in the final bill text.

 

Fair Sentencing Act

 

The proposal would apply elements of the Fair Sentencing Act, which reduced the crack to powdered cocaine disparity from 100 to 1 to 18 to 1. The bill was signed into law in 2010.

 

Senator Grassley’s proposal would retroactively apply the 18-1 crack to powdered cocaine disparity to prisoners serving time before the Fair Sentencing Act became law.

 

The crack to powdered cocaine disparity refers to the amount of crack as opposed to powdered cocaine necessary to trigger mandatory minimum sentences. Before the Fair Sentencing Act, one gram of crack cocaine would have the equivalent minimum sentence as 100 grams of powdered cocaine. The sentence was reduced with the Fair Sentencing Act to an 18 to 1 crack to powdered cocaine disparity but the law does not address inmates already serving time before 2010.

 

Contrary to what critics might say, retroactively applying the Fair Sentencing Act would not alter the recidivism rate. The US Sentencing Commission ran a study which found that retroactively has no effect on the rate of recidivism. 

 

Keeping people in jail for long sentences that are no longer law is not only senseless, it also wastes taxpayer dollars. On average, it costs $31,000 a year to keep someone in jail. Since taxpayer dollars are limited, we should not be wasting money on locking up individuals with outdated sentences who do not pose a threat of recidivism to society.

 

Retroactively applying the Fair Sentencing act would ultimately save taxpayers money while also ensuring that individuals in prison have a fairer sentence that matches the crime. 

 

Stacked Charges

 

The proposed changes to the FIRST STEP Act also address stacked charges.

 

Stacked charges came into the spotlight when Weldon Angelos received a 55-year sentence for three stacked counts of small marijuana sales, each time with his gun in possession, even though he was a first time offender.

 

His 55-year sentence was more than the mandatory minimum for hijacking, kidnapping or rape. After serving 13 years in prison and an extensive campaign in favor of his release, a federal court agreed to release Angelos. 

 

Angelos is not the only case of stacked charges gone wrong. Stacked charges are often applied to nonviolent lawful gun owners. 

 

The Grassley proposal would prevent first time offenders from receiving stacked charges and would ensure that only real recidivists receive stacked charges.

 

The uncontroversial proposal even received support from then Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Ala). In 2015 while SRCA was marked up in the 114th Congress, Sessions explained that, “I think the stacking issue is a problem...I would support reform of the stacking provisions somewhat like you have it in the bill today.”

 

Safety Valve

 

The current federal safety valve was implemented in 1994 with the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, which outlines five criteria for an offender to be eligible for the federal safety valve.

 

Currently, an individual is eligible for the federal safety valve if they do not have more than one criminal history point, they did not use violence or threats of violence or possess a firearm or other dangerous weapon (in connection with the offense), the offense didn’t result in death or serious bodily injury to another person, the individual was not an organizer, leader, manager, or supervisor of others in the offense, and the individual truthfully provided all relevant information to the government on the offense or conduct surrounding the offense. By expanding the federal safety valve to four criminal offense points, judges would be able to provide fairer sentences to nonviolent offenders while still holding real violent criminals accountable.

 

A safety valve allows a judge to use judicial discretion for sentencing. This means that judges can use their experience and expertise to make some legal decisions at their discretion among a range of possible decisions when one specific course of action is not clearly outlined by law. The proposal would ensure that judges have the option to go below a mandatory minimum if a punishment is too excessive, allowing judges to provide fairer sentences when necessary.

 

The proposed addition to the First Step Act would expand the federal safety valve to four criminal offense points as opposed to just one offense.

 

The federal safety valve does not automatically mean that an individual would receive a sentence below the mandatory minimum, nor does it allow a judge to act in any way they choose. Rather, it provides a framework that allows a judge to use their discretion to sentence below the mandatory minimum if it is too harsh for the offense.

 

Today, criminal history points are calculated based on the sentence an individual has received in the past based on the yearly sentencing guidelines. For example, an individual receives 3 points for each prior sentence of imprisonment exceeding one year and one month while a prior sentence of less than sixty days accounts for 1 point. Criminal history points are added together and are used as an indicator for whether a judge can issue a sentence below a mandatory minimum.

 

Criminal history points compound, meaning many non-violent offenders who have more than one charge against them, regardless of the fact that they did not commit a violent crime, are not eligible for the federal safety valve. Extending the federal safety valve to four criminal history points would allow for more non-violent offenders to have fairer sentences, while also holding serious criminals accountable for their actions.

 

Expanding the federal safety valve would also save federal tax dollars. Since the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act was signed into law, 80,000 federal drug offenders have received fairer sentences, saving the government about $28,000 per prisoner per year. By expanding the federal safety valve, we would save taxpayer dollars while also providing fair sentences for non-violent crimes.

 

The proposal would amend Section 3553 of Title 18 of the US Code, which limits the applicability of mandatory minimums in certain cases. This is also known as the federal safety valve, which provides an exception to mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent offenders without a criminal history.

 

FIRST STEP Act is a common sense solution

 

The bottom line is that someone can’t be thrown in jail unless we make what he or she is doing illegal. We are putting too many Americans in prison for nonviolent crimes, wasting taxpayer dollars and tearing apart families in the process. 

 

Currently there are 2.3 million individuals behind bars, costing $74 billion in federal spending. Due to the increasing prison population from 1980 until today, spending has more than quadrupled from $17 billion to $74 billion.

 

Congress will come back into session briefly following the election and before the New Year, at which time Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has promised a whip count on the FIRST STEP Act. The President has also expressed his support for the bipartisan bill, leaving the Senate floor vote as one of the final hurdles to overcome before the bill can become law.

 

The bill is a bipartisan effort that drastically and positively revamps the criminal justice system. The bill is sponsored by Congressman Doug Collins (R- Ga-9) in the House (H.R.5682) and has 19 cosponsors from both parties. The Senate version (S.2795) of the bill is sponsored by Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) and cosponsored by Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Tim Scott (R-S.C.). The House overwhelmingly passed the FIRST STEP Act in May, but the bill still awaits action in the Senate.

 

The FIRST STEP Act, along with Senator Grassley’s proposed sentencing reform items, would create a positive impact on the criminal justice system. We can’t afford for the clock to run out on this important piece of legislation. 

 

Photo Credit: Meesh

More from Americans for Tax Reform


The Senate needs to pass the FIRST STEP Act before the New Year

Share on Facebook
Tweet this Story
Pin this Image

Posted by Demri Scott on Thursday, November 1st, 2018, 4:26 PM PERMALINK

Right now it’s fairly quiet in Washington. Congress is out of session until the election and elected officials are hitting the campaign trail. But one thing Congress should keep in the back of their minds for when they come back in November is criminal justice reform and the Formerly Incarcerated Reenter Society Transformed Safely Transitioning Every Person (FIRST STEP) Act.

Recidivism Reduction

Notably, the bill incorporates recidivism reduction programs for minimal and low-risk offenders by providing time-release credits to inmates who participate in rehabilitative programs. Programs include courses on social learning, communication, family relationship building and substance abuse treatment.

Under the FIRST STEP Act, after periodic risk assessments, an inmate would be able to cash out their time credits to be granted pre-release custody. Under the FIRST STEP Act a prisoner would earn 10 days of time credits for every 30 days of successful participation in recidivism reduction programming.

The program is only available to low-risk offenders. Participating prisoners also receive periodic risk assessments to determine if they are safe for release, which provide guardrails for the program.

The bill would place early released prisoners in either a residential reentry center or in home confinement. States like Texas and Georgia have shown that the alternatives to prison, like electronic monitoring  and home confinement are more effective at reducing criminality while still holding wrong-doers accountable.

If the goal of prison is to ensure that prisoners do not reoffend, prison needs to be a place where inmates learn skills that will allow them to become positive participants in society.

In a study, researchers found that within three years of being released, 67.8% of offenders were rearrested. Within five years of being released, 76.6% of released offenders were arrested again.

These common-sense reforms would positively impact lives by providing prisoners the tools they need so they do not become recidivists. By reducing recidivism, the First Step Act would also positively impact public safety as well.

The bill also includes reforms that would prohibit restraints on women during pregnancy, labor and postpartum recovery. If signed into law, the bill would also mandate that a terminally ill prisoner’s attorney must be contacted to prepare and submit a request for sentence reduction.

FIRST STEP Act is a common sense solution

The bottom line is that someone can’t be thrown in jail unless we make what he or she is doing illegal. We are putting too many Americans in prison for nonviolent crimes, wasting taxpayer dollars and tearing apart families in the process. 

Currently there are 2.3 million individuals behind bars, costing $74 billion in federal spending. Due to the increasing prison population from 1980 until today, spending has more than quadrupled from $17 billion to $74 billion.

Congress will come back into session briefly following the election and before the New Year, at which time Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has promised a whip count on the FIRST STEP Act. The President has also expressed his support for the bipartisan bill, leaving the Senate floor vote as one of the final hurdles to overcome before the bill can become law.

The bill is a bipartisan effort that drastically and positively revamps the criminal justice system. The bill is sponsored by Congressman Doug Collins (R- Ga-9) in the House (H.R.5682) and has 19 cosponsors from both parties. The Senate version (S.2795) of the bill is sponsored by Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) and cosponsored by Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Tim Scott (R-S.C.). The House overwhelmingly passed the FIRST STEP Act in May, but the bill still awaits action in the Senate.

The FIRST STEP Act, along with the proposed sentencing reform items included in SRCA, would create a positive impact on the criminal justice system. We can’t afford for the clock to run out on this important piece of legislation. 

Photo Credit: Mr.Kitsadakron Pongha

More from Americans for Tax Reform


Pages

×