Georgia Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), along with 18 co-sponsors, introduced the FIRST STEP Act in House to overhaul the national prison system. After a strong vote of 360 to 59, the bill awaits further action in the Senate..
The FIRST STEP Act, H.R. 5682 is an overhaul of America’s prisons, a foray into the many reforms that have been advancing across more than half of state legislatures.
This bill encourages inmates to complete vocational and rehabilitative programs that will permit certain low risk non-violent offenders to earn credits to finish their sentences in community supervision or halfway houses. The bill excludes prisoners with certain offenses from being eligible for time credits. Such cases include terrorism, sexual offenses, and serious violent crimes.
Not only would this reform enhance public safety by giving prisoners a better opportunity of a second chance at life Another important provision of the rule would require the placement of prisoners within 500 driving miles of their primary residence. Maintaining their family ties is an important component in ensuring successful reintegration.
There are currently 2.3 million individuals behind bars at a cost $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.
Prison beds are expensive. By incarcerating a disproportionate amount of low risk non-violent individuals, law enforcement has fewer resources to focus on the truly dangerous criminals. Tough states like Texas and Georgia have shown that alternatives like home confinement and halfway housing are more effective at reducing criminality while still holding wrong-doers accountable.
“Redemption, if you can’t offer that, what are you here for?” Collins said at the Road to Majority Conference last week. “We must give the opportunity to not be trapped in this revolving-door system.”
If this bill passes in the Senate, not only would prison populations decrease, but former prisoners would be able to better reintegrate into society and avoid falling back into a life of crime.
This criminal justice reform gained bipartisan support in the House and the support of President Trump. Americans for Tax Reform endorses the First Step Act for the efforts to improve the criminal justice system.
The full letter of support can be found here.