Dear Speaker Ryan and Leader Pelosi:
As conservatives, we firmly believe in limited, effective government. It is paramount to ensure that the scope of government does not grow so large as to stifle human flourishing. No matter if the issue is onerous regulations that smother small businesses or federal mandates on education, the state’s one-size-fits-all approach constantly fails to improve matters and often makes them worse. Perhaps the most noticeable government failure is in the area of public safety.
For decades, we have sought to protect our communities using what we assumed was the best tool at hand: incarceration. Unfortunately, we have never asked ourselves what the end goal should be. Yes, people who commit dangerous crimes must be removed from our communities. However, we failed to consider what we were doing – both inside and outside our prisons – to ensure that those incarcerated ultimately become productive members of society once they return to those communities.
We were buoyed when the White House issued its Principles of Prison Reform and Reentry. Therein, President Trump outlined seven key tenets of conservative reentry policy, such as a focus on public safety outcomes, the use of proven successful policies, and incentivizing offenders to seek their own redemption rather than simply “waiting out their time.” Each principle has proven to be effective in states like Texas, Georgia, and South Carolina where conservative criminal justice polices have been implemented. It is time to take these lessons on prison reform and apply them to the federal system.
On May 9, the House Judiciary Committee overwhelmingly passed the Formerly Incarcerated Reenter Society Transformed Safely Transitioning Every Person Act (H.R. 5682). Sponsored by Representatives Doug Collins (R-GA) and Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) and with bipartisan support, the FIRST STEP Act improves the federal prison system by providing reentry programming that will increase public safety, reduce recidivism, and give those incarcerated a second chance once they have paid their debt to society.
We encourage you to quickly take up this legislation and implement each of the principles outlined therein. The FIRST STEP Act is that support from conservatives and the majority of the American people.
We commend the House Judiciary Committee and its leaders for taking up this critical issue, which will lead to both safer streets and second chances.
Newt Gingrich, Former Speaker of the House of Representative
Edwin Meese, Former Attorney General of the United States
Robert Ehrlich, Former Governor of Maryland
Mike Huckabee, Former Governor of Arkansas
Jim DeMint, Former United States Senator
J.C. Watts, Former Member, U.S. House of Representatives
Bob Barr, Former Member, U.S. House of Representatives
Ken Blackwell, Former Secretary of State (Ohio)
Ken Cuccinelli, Former Attorney General (Virginia)
Bernie Kerik, Former New York Police Commissioner
Jerry Madden, Former Chairman, Texas House Committee on Corrections
David Barton, Wallbuilders
Gary Bauer, American Values
Brent Bozell, Media Research Center
Adam Brandon, Freedom Works
Deborah J. Daniels, Partner, Krieg DeVault LLP
Doug Deason, Deason Foundation
Craig DeRoche, Prison Fellowship
Donald Devine, The Fund for American Studies
Mark Earley, Former Attorney General (Virginia)
Daniel Garza, The Libre Initiative
Rebecca Hagelin, Council for National Policy
David Keene, Editor-at-Large, The Washington Times
Eli Lehrer, R Street Institute
Penny Nance, Concerned Women for American
Lisa Nelson, American Legislative Exchange Council
Grover Norquist, Americans for Tax Reform
Pat Nolan, American Conservative Union Foundation
Star Parker, Coalition for Urban Renewal & Education
Ralph Reed, Faith & Freedom Coalition
Brooke Rollins, Texas Public Policy Foundation
Richard Viguerie, American Target Advertising
Robert Woodson, Woodson Center/National Center for Neighborhood Enterprise
Mark Holden, Freedom Partners
Brent Gardner, Americans for Prosperity
David Barnes, Generation Opportunity
David Safavian, American Conservative Union