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Bipartisan criminal justice bill passed by Senate

Reform for prisoners is underway with President Trump's support
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Bipartisan criminal justice bill passed by Senate

Grace Walker, Staff Writer

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On December 11th of 2018, the Senate passed a bill with overwhelming support that will kickstart reform in the criminal justice system. The bill changed laws previously disapproved by both Republicans and Democrats alike. The First Step Act would expand job training efforts to reduce the recidivism rate among federal prisoners and first-time offenders. This bill also expands upon early-release programs and modifies the sentencing laws, requiring minimum sentences for some criminals depending on the crimes they commit. For example, the law includes a section that states that minimum sentences must be assigned for non-violent drug offenders as a way of equalizing the punishments of all drug offenders, violent and not. President Trump has said that he supports the bill and will not hesitate to sign it.

The American Civil Liberties Union, the American Conservative Union, the Koch brothers, and the Center for American Progress are working together to push the federal government to reconsider the way they administer justice to convicted criminals. This movement is coming about three decades after the war on crime in America peaked. Democrats believe that by gaining the support of many conservatives and the President, they will have a better chance when they take over the House of Representatives on changing the criminal justice system even further, on a federal level and in the states. Many of the changes made in the bill were inspired by successful tactics at the state level.

Once the bill is signed into law by the president, thousands of federal prisoners will be eligible for early release programs and sentence reductions based on their conviction and behavior while in prison. Prisoners will be given new chances and new incoming prisoners will be entering a new and improved prison system never before seen by the American people. John Cornyn, a senator from Texas, made a statement on the intent of the bill. “We’re not just talking about money, we’re talking about human potential.” This bill will provide many prisoners with hope of earlier release than previously thought and a second chance at life. “We’re investing in the men and women who want to turn their lives around once they’re released from prison, and we’re investing in so doing in stronger and more viable communities.” The First Step Act also implements incentives into the prison system with new programs to improve conditions and prepare low-risk, well behaved prisoners for their return to society.  By participating in the aforementioned programs, prisoners can earn time credits to reduce their sentences. There is even an option called “pre-release custody” which is similar to house arrest and allows prisoners to adjust back into the real world, gradually. Certain criminals have been barred from these opportunities depending on their original crime, likelihood of recidivism, and behavior while imprisoned.

All in all, this new legislation included four major changes to the criminal justice system and the laws associated with sentencing. 

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Bipartisan criminal justice bill passed by Senate