President Donald Trump has thrown his support behind a bipartisan prison-reform bill.
The bill would allow white-collar criminals at low risk of re-offending to potentially earn 10 days off their sentence for every 30 days in which they participate in “recidivism reduction programming or productive activities.” These include items such as social learning and communication skills, faith-based classes or services, substance-abuse treatment, vocational training, a prison job, and reintegrative community services. The bill also increases the amount of time prisoners can earn off their sentence for good behavior, and improves conditions for prisoners, such as by giving more time for family visitation and phone calls.
In addition to these “back-end” reductions for white-collar offenders, the bill also provides “front-end” sentencing reductions for drug crimes.
“Our whole nation benefits if former inmates are able to reenter society as productive, law-abiding citizens,” Trump said.
Speaking at the White House Wednesday, Trump announced his support for the “bipartisan agreement,” which may be the first piece of legislation passed in the lame-duck session of Congress.
“Did I hear the word bipartisan?” the president asked rhetorically. “That’s a nice word.”
Trump said he believes the bill “will make our communities safer and give former inmates a second chance at life after they have served their time.”
Called the FIRST STEP Act, the bill, which has been championed by Trump’s son-in-law and White House advisor Jared Kushner, passed the House of Representatives overwhelmingly in May, with only the back-end prison reforms.
The Senate version, as strongly advocated by Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), added the front-end sentencing reforms. But the Senate did not immediately take up the bill, as Trump delayed announcing his support until after the midterm elections at the urging of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who did not want to risk splintering the party prior to the confirmation battle over Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and the elections.
One staunch opponent of the bill in the administration was Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who resigned the day after the elections, in a widely expected move following a tumultuous tenure. Sessions said his resignation came at the request of the president.
The FIRST STEP Act has earned the support of several police organizations, including the Fraternal Order of Police and the International Association of Police Chiefs.
McConnell is said to be willing to bring the bill to a vote if it has the support of the 60 senators required to defeat a filibuster. The bill likely has support of far more than 60 senators – all but several conservatives, who do not want prison reform, and several liberals, who believe these reforms don’t go far enough.
But a source familiar with the legislation told Hamodia that McConnell won’t put the bill forward unless a majority of its supporters are Republican.
Updated Thursday, November 15, 2018 at 11:52 am .