First Step Act Is Biggest Federal Criminal Justice Reform in Decades

Washington, DC — Today, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 358 to 36 to pass the revised version of the First Step Act.  The Senate passed the bill on Tuesday.  The First Step Act is the most comprehensive criminal justice reform package of the last three decades.  The legislation increases public safety, provides re-entry programming to help reduce recidivism, includes modest sentencing reforms, and gives those incarcerated a second chance once they have paid their debt to society.  The bill as passed is the result of bipartisan and bicameral cooperation and has the support of law enforcement, the faith community, conservative grassroots organizations and think tanks and businesses. The bill will now go to President Trump to be signed into law. 

Right on Crime Signatories, a coalition of prominent conservative leaders who have worked tirelessly on this bill reacted to its passage: 

“This bill will fix well-intended but damaging decisions of the past. The so-called “three strikes” law will be changed so it applies only to serious drug felons and serious violent felons – rather than anyone charged with trafficking drugs,” said Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House of Representatives.

“The remarkable leadership of the White House brought together Republicans and Democrats, Senators and Representatives, and groups representing law enforcement, the faith community, businesses, and families with incarcerated loved ones to achieve this important step toward reducing crime, reducing costs, redemption to those who have paid their due, and hope for a better future in which families can see their loved ones succeed as a contributing member of society,” said Jim DeMint, former United States Senator.

“This bill is the beginning of a long overdue transformation of the federal criminal justice system. Yes, it will save money, but it is truly about giving people a second chance to become better, productive citizens. How could anyone not love it?” said Doug Deason, The Deason Foundation.

“With the passage of this long-overdue legislation, individuals who have paid their debt to society and have taken steps to better themselves will have the opportunity to reunite with their families and they’ll have the skills necessary to contribute to their communities as they re-enter society,” said Kay Coles James, President, The Heritage Foundation.

“The First Step Act has been accurately described as the most significant criminal justice bill in a generation.   The First Step Act will lead to safer communities and redeemed lives by giving judges more discretion to impose appropriate sentences for low-level, non-violent offenders and by offering evidence-based programs in prison designed to equip inmates with some of the skills they need to become law-abiding, productive citizens upon release,” said John Malcolm, Vice President of the Heritage Foundation’s Institute for Constitutional Government.

“The strong and effective leadership of conservatives made these reforms possible. As a result inmates will leave prison prepared to be good parents, good employees, and good neighbors. And our communities will be safer,” said Pat Nolan, Director of the American Conservative Union Foundation’s Center for Criminal Justice Reform.

“The First Step Act proves that we can bridge the partisan divide. But at its core, it is a starkly conservative bill. It focuses on public safety first, rather than decarceration. It is based on evidence, instead of emotion. And it moves us away from our national addiction to filling prisons, when we know there’s a better way. This approach has been proven to work in the states and we are certain it will be successful at the federal level to make us all safer,” said David Safavian, Deputy Director, The American Conservative Union Foundation.

 “We look forward to President Trump signing this bill into law, and we must now continue moving the needle on justice reform even further towards fairness. There is much work yet to be done, and Congress has overwhelmingly given its approval to continue down this path,” said Jason Pye, FreedomWorks Vice President of Legislative Affairs.

“America just got a little safer and more in line with the values of justice that our founding fathers envisioned,” said Craig DeRoche, Senior Vice President of Prison Fellowship. “The FIRST STEP Act is a huge win for the faith community and programs like Prison Fellowship.”

“The faith community has worked for over four years to achieve lasting reform of our federal justice system and now thanks to President Trump, reform minded legislators of both political parties and a wide array of advocates, justice reform will become law. The First Step Act is the most consequential federal justice reform since 2010 and will provide people in federal prison with access to the transformational programming such as drug rehabilitation, skills training, and faith-based educationthat they need to ensure that they don’t end up back in prison,” said Tim Head,  Executive Director of the Faith & Freedom Coalition.

“This is not only a first step, but the beginning of a new approach to federal criminal justice policy anchored in the values of limited government. public safety, and the dignity and potential for redemption in every person,” said Marc A. Levin, Vice President of Criminal Justice, Texas Public Policy Foundation. “Having started TPPF’s work in criminal justice in 2005, I am gratified that congressional leaders and the President recognized that the successful reforms that began in Texas and spread to dozens of other states could help transform the federal system.”

“As 95 percent of people who enter prison will one day leave, this bill provides the opportunity for redemption – not just punishment. Instead of returning to a life of crime, they can receive the treatment, skills, education, and/or training that will help them live law-abiding, productive lives when they are released,” said Ken Cuccinelli, former Virginia Attorney General.  “This approac h has proven successful in red states like Texas, South Carolina, and Georgia. This bill upholds a safe and civil society while also preserving core American values of redemption and opportunity to do better.”  

Right on Crime is a national campaign of the Texas Public Policy Foundation, in partnership with the American Conservative Union Foundation and Prison Fellowship that supports conservative solutions for reducing crime, restoring victims, reforming offenders, and lowering taxpayer costs.

The movement was born in Texas in 2005, and in recent years, dozens of states such as Georgia, Ohio, Kentucky, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Louisiana, have led the way in implementing conservative criminal justice reforms.

Right on Crime has the support and works to mobilize the voices of more than 90 prominent conservative leaders who have endorsed the principles of conservative criminal justice reform, including former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Concerned Women for America President Penny Nance, former U.S. Senator Jim DeMint, former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, and Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist.

To schedule an interview with Right on Crime spokespersons, please contact Kevin McVicker at (703) 739-5920 or [email protected]