House Overwhelmingly Passes Prison-Reform Bill

The House of Representatives on Tuesday overwhelmingly passed the prison-reform bill known as the FIRST STEP Act.

The Act would allow most white-collar federal prisoners deemed to be at low risk of re-offending to earn significant time off their sentences for participating in rehabilitation programs in prison, and to earn more time off for good behavior. The Act would also allow prisoners who are at least 60 years old and have served two-thirds of their sentence to serve the remainder in home confinement.

Additionally, the Act increases prisoners’ phone access, allows for additional visitation time, and bans or minimizes the use of all restraints such as handcuffs and shackles on expectant prisoners until after the period of postpartum recovery.

The House passed the bill Tuesday by a 360-59 margin, with support from significant majorities of both parties, including the parties’ leadership. The bill is expected to face a stiffer challenge in the Senate.

Much of the opposition to the bill comes from lawmakers, particularly Democrats, who would prefer that the bill also include reforms to sentencing guidelines for drug offenders. But the White House, which has enthusiastically supported the FIRST STEP Act, has indicated it would not support such sentencing reform.