House Passes Bipartisan Prison Reform Legislation

May 23rd, 2018 | By | Category: Featured
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Yesterday, the House of Representatives approved by a vote of 360-59 a bill to reform the federal prison system, the FIRST STEP Act (H.R. 5682). This legislation, sponsored by Representatives Doug Collins (R-Ga.) and Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), improves the federal prison system through the implementation of corrections policy reforms. These targeted reforms enhance public safety by improving the effectiveness and efficiency of the federal prison system in order to control corrections spending, manage the prison population, provide educational and vocational training to inmates so they can successfully reenter society once released, and reduce recidivism. It was recently approved by the House Judiciary Committee by a vote of 25-5.

Congressman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) praised the House vote:

“The House Judiciary Committee has worked on a bipartisan basis for several years to bring much-needed reform to the criminal justice system. We’ve already seen the enactment of forensics reform – the Rapid DNA Act – and now the House has taken another step toward reforming the criminal justice system by passing the FIRST STEP Act, a bipartisan prison reform bill.

“Since the vast majority of federal prisoners will one day be released from prison, the FIRST STEP Act provides inmates the help they need to successfully reenter society so that they don’t return to a life of crime. Importantly, these reforms will enhance the safety of our communities. I thank Representatives Collins and Jeffries for their work on and dedication to this important issue. I am pleased the House of Representatives voted to pass this bill, and I look forward to working on other initiatives to improve the criminal justice system with Members of Congress and the Trump Administration.”

Key Components of the FIRST STEP Act:

Strengthens Public Safety:

· The FIRST STEP Act implements a post-sentencing dynamic risk assessment system to determine an inmate’s risk of committing more crimes upon release from prison. Under the legislation, the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) would utilize effective recidivism reduction programs and provide incentives for inmates to participate in those programs. Ultimately, inmates could earn credits toward an alternative custody arrangement – such as a halfway house or home confinement – at the end of their prison sentence.

· Renders criminals convicted of certain serious offenses ineligible for the alternative custody program, including dangerous sexual offenders, murderers, and others.

Enhances Prison Security:

· The bill requires the Director of BOP to provide a secure storage area outside the secure perimeter for employees to store firearms or to allow for vehicle lock boxes for firearms.

· The bill requires the Director of BOP to provide de-escalation training as part of the regular training requirements of correctional officers.

Provides Inmates the Help They Need:

· The bill provides more employment opportunities for inmates by expanding the federal prison industries program.

· The bill requires BOP to initiate pilot programs for youth mentorship and the training and therapy of rescue dogs.

· It requires BOP to submit a report and evaluation of the current pilot program to treat heroin and opioid abuse through medication assisted treatment.

·  The bill extends the compassionate elderly release provision from the Second Chance Act that allows the prisoner to request for his or her compassionate release if he or she meets the requirements set out in the law.

· The bill codifies BOP’s rules on using restraints on pregnant inmates, which generally prohibit the use of restraints on pregnant inmates except those who are an immediate and credible flight risk or threat of harm to herself, the baby, or others. 

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