President Trump announced his support for the First Step Act, a bipartisan agreement for prison reform, at the White House yesterday.
The First Step Act passed the House in May with only prison reform included, earning support from virtually all Republicans and more than two-thirds of Democrats. Generally speaking, those Democrats who held out did so on the principle that criminal justice reform legislation must include sentencing reform.
In the six months after the passage of the House bill, Senate lawmakers led by Republican judiciary committee chairman Chuck Grassley set about drafting their own version that could include sentencing reform without alienating Trump or Republican supporters. The First Step Act is supported by party leaders on both sides of the aisle, the ACLU, the Koch brothers, several law enforcement agencies and a list of over 50 celebrities that have signed a letter addressed congressional leaders urging them to take the steps necessary to sign the bill into law before Congress breaks in mid-December.
Among the celebrities to sign the letter are musicians like Kanye West, Aloe Blacc, Peter Gabriel and Esperanza Spalding; actors like Alyssa Milano, Courtney Cox and Alicia Silverstone; athletes like Baron Davis, Delanie Walker and Benjamin Watson; and plenty of other notable figures like Kim Kardashian West, Mark Cuban, Eric Bolling and even fired White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci.
The proposed sentencing reform would get rid of so-called “three strikes” mandatory life sentences for defendants facing a third drug conviction, except for those with a prior “serious violent felony”, and eliminate “stacking” regulations that make it illegal to posses a firearm while committing a crime, even if the firearm is not used. It would also effectively reduce a vast number of federal mandatory minimum sentences by allowing judges to bypass them for non-violent offenders when they see fit.
The bill would also retroactively extend the 2010 Fair Sentencing Act, a move that could affect thousands of drug offenders serving disproportionately long sentences for crack cocaine versus the powder variant.
Some advocates say the prison reform could release 4,000 people currently serving long sentences, give elderly and terminally ill inmates a path home and invest tens of millions in re-entry programming.
To learn more about the First Step Act, including how to lend your support, click here: https://www.firststepact.org/