WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the U.S. Senate passed the FIRST Step Act, a bipartisan bill cosponsored by U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Angus King (I-Maine), among others. The legislation, which passed by a vote of 87-12, would improve fairness in sentencing of federal crimes, promote public safety, and reduce recidivism. The bill was introduced by U.S. Senators Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), and combines prison reform proposals that overwhelmingly passed in the House of Representatives earlier this year with sentencing reform provisions from the broadly bipartisan Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, which Senator King cosponsored in July and was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this year. The legislation has been endorsed by the President, has strong bipartisan support in Congress, and is supported by a wide range of law enforcement organizations and criminal justice reform advocates.
“The FIRST Step Act is modeled after the efforts by dozens of states that have successfully reformed their criminal justice systems to rehabilitate minimum- and low-risk offenders,” said Senator Collins. “This legislation will make our communities safer by reducing recidivism, give a second chance to people who have committed non-violent crimes, and save taxpayers money.”
“Right now, our criminal justice system isn’t working; not for those who spend decades in prison for nonviolent offenses, not for law enforcement officers, and not for taxpayers,” said Senator King. “But we can create a better criminal justice system, and today we took the first step towards a solution that works for all Americans. This bipartisan bill will make our communities safer, prepare inmates to be productive members of society, and save taxpayer money – no wonder it has widespread support from across the ideological spectrum.”
The comprehensive package 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. It also preserves the maximum potential sentences for violent and career criminals. In addition, the legislation allows petitions for retroactive application of the Fair Sentencing Act to be considered on an individual basis to reduce historical sentencing disparities. Under this legislation, any savings generated by the reforms would automatically be reinvested into law enforcement programs to further reduce crime and improve community safety.
The bill is supported by a wide range of stakeholders, from key law enforcement organizations to reform advocates, including the Fraternal Order of Police, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, Cut50, Law Enforcement Leaders to Reduce Crime & Incarceration, and the National District Attorneys Association.