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.