House passes criminal justice reform bill

Posted December 21, 2018

The Senate passed the measure, dubbed the First Step Act, 87-12 on Tuesday night.

An inmate stands at his cell door at a maximum security facility in Arizona.

The bill would reduce the life sentence for some drug offenders with three convictions, or "three strikes", to 25 years.

The First Step Act (S. 3649) "provide [s] for programs to help reduce the risk that prisoners will recidivate upon release from prison" and, in so doing, reduce the number of inmates overall.

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The House is expected to take up the Senate version of the bill at a later date.

"This legislation is proof that we can be tough on crime and more compassionate to those who deserve a second chance", Mississippi Republican Roger Wicker said in a statement. According to Justice Department figures, approximately three out of every four Americans released from state prison ends up back behind bars within five years, and one in four prisoners in the federal prison system.

"Rather than have a list of offenses that did not qualify, I think the better approach would have been to have a list of offenses that did qualify for the program", Rubio said. Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas, who at 41 is one of the youngsters in the Senate, chose to vote against it despite the Senate accepting his amendments, which included restrictions on who was eligible for earned time credits.

"Congratulations to the Senate on the bi-partisan passing of a historic Criminal Justice Reform Bill", he said. The nation's federal prison population has soared by more than 700 percent since the 1980s.

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"I believe we have a lot of work to do", she said just ahead of Tuesday's vote. The primary focus of the bill is to promote federal rehabilitation efforts, including providing programs created to prevent recidivism and easing up on statutory sentencing for some drug offenders. There is a Christmas miracle under way where, for the first time in a generation, Republicans and Democrats are arm in arm tonight saying 'We are sending too many people to prison.

"It also incentivizes prisoners to participate in programs created to reduce the risk of recidivism, with the reward being an earlier release to either home confinement or a halfway house to complete their sentence", adds the article.

Alaska's other GOP senator, Dan Sullivan, also voted against the bill citing concerns about "the complexities Alaska is facing with criminal justice reform, collectively known as SB91 in Alaska, along with skyrocketing crime rates and an evolving opioid and drug crisis".

It allows for more criminals to serve their sentences in halfway houses or under home confinement, and requires offenders to be jailed within 500 miles (800km) from their families. Big questions remain about how to end irrational mass incarceration and other issues. The American Civil Liberties Union said the bill was "by no means ideal". The bill also disqualifies from earned time credits offenses such as smuggling foreigners into the country for prostitution, assaulting a law enforcement officer with a deadly weapon, failure to register as a sex offender and trafficking in heroin or methamphetamine.

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