Syrita Bowen News, Press


Historic Criminal Justice Reform Bill Passes House and Senate with Overwhelming Bipartisan Majority

(Washington, D.C.) Today, the House of Representatives passed the FIRST STEP Act by a vote of 358-36, after a 87-12 vote in the Senate, paving the way for the bill to become law. The first-of-its kind, historic criminal justice reform legislation now heads to President Trump’s desk for his signature. Years in the making, this bill is the most comprehensive criminal justice reform ever passed by both chambers of U.S. Congress.

The landmark legislation was spearheaded by bipartisan partnership of Congressmen Doug Collins (R-GA) and Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), as well as Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Dick Durbin (D-IL). The strong leadership of these key sponsors, among other members, built the foundation for the most significant bipartisan criminal justice reform legislation to pass both chambers in a generation.

“It was incredible to be with our bipartisan group of advocates in the U.S. House of Representatives when the chamber voted overwhelmingly to deliver to the American people something that they have demanded for years – bipartisan legislation that transforms our broken justice system, making it fairer and more effective, which will ultimately makes America safer,” said Holly Harris, Executive Director of Justice Action Network and a Kentucky-based conservative strategist. “I’d like to thank Congressmen Collins and Jeffries for spearheading the First Step Act, Speaker Ryan and Minority Leader Pelosi for their steadfast resolve in seeing it through, and the 358 members of Congress who voted alongside them for this life-changing legislation. We look forward to President Trump signing this groundbreaking bill into law.”

Key components of the bill include:

  • Provides certain inmates earned credit incentives to participate in rehabilitative and job-training programming designed to reduce recidivism;
  • Authorizes $75 million for rehabilitative programming;
  • Requires inmates to be housed in a facility within 500 miles from their primary residence, if security classification and bed space allow it;
  • Reauthorizes an elderly prisoner early release pilot program from the Second Chance Act of 2007
  • Expands the existing “safety valve” for low-level, nonviolent offenders, which allows judges to depart below mandatory minimum sentences in certain cases;
  • Makes the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, which reduced the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine, retroactive;
  • Bans shackling of women who are pregnant or in postpartum recovery in federal prisons and jails

As the country’s largest bipartisan advocacy organization, Justice Action Network serves as a national hub for bipartisan cooperation in the criminal justice reform space. Working through dozens of funded partners on the right and the left, JAN has assisted in the passage of dozens of significant reform bills across the country. JAN credits groups including FreedomWorks, #Cut50, Families Against Mandatory Minimums, the American Conservative Union, the Brennan Center for Justice, Prison Fellowship, Right on Crime, the Center for American Progress, the Fraternal Order of Police, the U.S. Chamber, and so many more for linking arms and moving forward in lockstep to advance federal reforms, which will better prioritize public safety, improve and expand rehabilitative opportunities for incarcerated people, and begin the process of reducing unduly harsh sentences for certain nonviolent offenders.

Earlier today criminal justice reform advocates hosted a press call to discuss this historic legislation. Audio from that press call is attached.

Today’s final House vote sends the legislation to the President’s desk for signature.