There has been a growing consensus across all ideological lines that our nation’s criminal justice system is horribly flawed and in need of massive reform. We may not have to wait to take the first step.
The US House of Representatives passed a bill earlier this year called the First Step Act (H.R. 5682), which contains reforms for the federal prison system. These include funding for groups which help prisoners develop skills that they need to become productive members of society after prison, and incentives such as supervised early release for those who make the effort to behave and rehabilitate.
But as the bill’s own title says, the First Step Act is only a small piece of the greater puzzle that is criminal justice reform. Federal sentencing policies, too, are in dire need of adjustment, to tamp down on the indefensibly large sentences that are being handed out to non-violent offenders as part of the War on Drugs.
Senators have been working on such reforms for several years, and even President Trump has recently signaled his willingness to embrace not only prison reforms, but perhaps some portions of sentencing reforms as well. The Senate should absolutely move to add sentencing reforms to the First Step Act and send it back for the House to pass before year’s end.
Thousands of prisoners who have been unjustly sentenced stand to be given a chance for a fresh start—it’s far past time for delay.
Contact your Senators and urge them to add sentencing reforms to the First Step Act and pass it while there’s still time.