On Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee holds a hearing on the fifth anniversary of the passage of the First Step Act, “Five Years of the First Step Act.”
The fifth anniversary comes as initial data on First Step is coming in, showing that the population of prisoners completing programming and gaining earned release credits are recidivating at a much lower rate, 12.4%, than a similar population of prisoners released before First Step was in place.
Prior to the First Step Act, a similar population had a recidivism rate 37% higher at 19.8%, according to a Council on Criminal Justice study. The 12.4% rate is far better than the general recidivism rate of 43%.
The First Step Act followed the massive success Republican-led states saw after incentivizing people in prison to complete programming to address issues like addiction and develop job skills. In fact, multiple members of Congress who voted for First Step, previously voted for similar legislation in their state legislatures.
These efforts, spearheaded by Texas, have broadly led to improved public safety, less recidivism, and fewer people needing to be incarcerated. With Congress following suit, it is good to see similar results in the federal system.
Republican leadership has been critical to improving the criminal justice system while putting public safety first, and not simply pursuing policies that aim to release offenders. Creating an opportunity for a hard-earned second chance, due to completing good programming, and staying on the straight-and-narrow, is the right way to reform the system.
The Senate’s hearing offers a great chance to celebrate the success of the First Step Act, and bring together the coalition that achieved passing this landmark legislation. There is much more to be done as Congress still has not enacted common sense, just policies like The EQUAL Act (to end the disparity between crack and cocaine sentences), and ending civil asset forfeiture abuses with the FAIR Act.