World News

House Follows Senate, Passes Criminal Reform Bill, Heads to President's Desk

House Follows Senate, Passes Criminal Reform Bill, Heads to President's Desk

"Congress just passed the Criminal Justice Reform Bill known as the #FirstStepAct", Trump wrote.

He urged Congress to continue productive cooperation across the aisle and avoid the concerns of a "divided government".

Senators voted 87-12 for the First Step Act, which is created to promote the rehabilitation and societal reentry of prisoners while maintaining public safety.

An inmate stands at his cell door at a maximum security facility in Arizona.

Among the sentencing guidelines being revises is one reducing the "three strikes" penalty for drug felons from life in prison to 25 years. President Trump endorsed the measure in November and is expected to sign it into law shortly after the House vote. I think mandatory minimum sentences can sometimes have impacts that you look at it and say aren't fair, but we also have to recognize mandatory and minimum sentences have taken really awful human beings off the streets for long periods of time.

In the Senate, Republican James Lankford, a Southern Baptist, said the First Step Act "balances the need to keep our communities safe while providing an opportunity for prisoners to earn a second chance". It only covers federal prisoners, who make up less than 10 percent of America's prison population. I'm not sure given the Amendments that are out there that they could ever get to the point where I'm 100% confident.

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

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. Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas, who at 41 is one of the youngsters in the Senate, made a decision to vote against it despite the Senate accepting his amendments, which included restrictions on who was eligible for earned time credits.

On the prison side, the bill would create more job training and drug treatment for inmates, among other changes. The primary focus of the bill is to promote federal rehabilitation efforts, including providing programs created to prevent recidivism and easing up on statutory sentencing for some drug offenders.

"I've been working for years with Senator (Dick) Durbin, the assistant Democratic leader in the Senate, to draw up a compromise", he said.

All were narrowly voted down on the Senate floor on Tuesday. The third would have required the Federal Bureau of Prisons to track and report the re-arrest rate for each prisoner who gets early release.

The House overwhelmingly approved a prison overhaul bill in May that focused on helping prisoners get education and treatment before returning to their homes, but senators insisted that the legislation had to include changes to drug sentencing laws. It would ease federal sentencing laws for some criminal offenders. Big questions remain about how to end irrational mass incarceration and other issues.

The American Civil Liberties Union said on Twitter it was "glad to see common sense prevail in the Senate voting to move this bill closer to the finish line". But, she did say the bill does make incremental progress, and it's a good first step, so long as more follow.

More news: Scandinavian tourists believed to have been murdered by men connected to ISIS


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