Sens. Chris Coons and Tom Carper recently celebrated the passage of The First Step Act — bipartisan legislation in the Senate to reduce recidivism, improve fairness and promote safety in the criminal justice system.
The revised First Step Act has been endorsed by President Donald Trump and was cosponsored by more than a third of the Senate.
“The American criminal justice system is broken, and it has been for a long time. The mass incarceration explosion resulting from the ‘War on Drugs’ and ‘tough on crime’ policies of the last four decades has left us with prisons that are overcrowded and costly and inmates that are often unfairly sentenced and forgotten. For decades, our system has focused too much on criminalization and incarceration and too little on justice and rehabilitation,” said Coons. “I was proud to partner with my colleagues to craft legislation that would make the criminal justice system fairer, and I look forward to seeing President Trump sign the First Step Act into law.”
“The U.S. has one of the highest incarceration rates in the entire world. While our country makes up only five percent of the world’s population, it incarcerates more than 20 percent of the world’s prisoners,” said Carper. “We should not be aiming to win any records for how many individuals we are incarcerating; instead, we should be working to ensure that those who serve their time are re-entering our society as better people, not better criminals. Despite the over $80 billion that our country spends on incarceration every year, our criminal justice system continues to face problems with overcrowding, inmate violence and high recidivism rates. The First Step Act puts long-awaited common-sense reforms into our federal prison system to address these problems while critically providing equal justice under the law. Today’s vote may be overdue, but I am pleased that we were finally able to seize the day and pass this legislation with overwhelming bipartisan support. I would urge the House to take this measure up quickly so that the President can sign it into law.”
The comprehensive, revised First Step Act aims to reduce crime by helping low-risk inmates prepare to successfully rejoin society through participation in proven recidivism reduction and professional development programs. It also improves fairness in prison sentences by recalibrating certain mandatory minimum sentences, granting greater discretion for judges in sentencing of low-level, nonviolent drug crimes and clarifying congressional intent on sentencing enhancements for certain crimes involving firearms. The legislation also allows petitions for retroactive application of the Fair Sentencing Act to be considered on an individual basis to reduce sentence disparities between crack and powder cocaine offenses.