WASHINGTON – The U.S Senate approved a bill Tuesday night called the Formerly Incarcerated Reenter Society Transformed, Safely Transitioning Every Person Act (FIRST STEP).
The bipartisan legislation, introduced in May by Reps. Doug Collins (GA-09) and Hakeem Jeffries (NY-08), aims to improve public safety while lowering recidivism and prison populations through rehabilitative programming, enabling newly-released individuals to more successfully re-enter society.
During a phone conference Wednesday morning with reporters, Congressman Tom Reed said the prison reform is more about “common sense” rather than politics.
“From my perspective, these reforms are common sense, reasonable reforms,” Reed said. “They are based on evidentiary background in regards to trying to implement, in our prison system, reform and programs that will put low-risk, non-violent criminals in a position to have the best opportunity to recommitting a crime.”
Reed said that the legislation has allowed for both sides of the isle to convene and discuss their respective issues.
“I think, through conversation, we’ve been able to respect each side of the isles concerns ,” Reed said. “My concerns in those conversations with Jared Kushner, Van Jones and Grover Northwest (all three originally approached Congress to discuss reform), as well as my Democratic colleagues, is that we do have some serious violent offenders.”
Reed cited how “violent felons” are using weapons to commit various crimes in the heroin trade. The Congressman said he believes those felons shouldn’t have a part in the reform.
“(Those people) shouldn’t be in the position to tap into these reforms to get early release time or access to these programs because those are really serious risks to our fellow American citizens ,” Reed said. “At the same time, I heard the arguments on the other side that some of our drug laws have led to low-risk offenders looking at life time, or 20-30-year-plus sentences for relatively lower offending provisions.”
The legislation authorizes $50 million per year for five years to develop programs related to education, vocational training and mental health counseling.
Reed said he hopes the House of Representatives pass the vote so that the bill can reach President Trump’s desk by Christmas Day. Trump said in a tweet Tuesday evening that he’s in full support of the bill.
“America is the greatest country in the world, and my job is to fight for ALL citizens, even those who have made mistakes,” President Trump tweeted. “Congratulations to the Senate on the bipartisan passing of a historic Criminal Justice Reform Bill. This will keep our communities safer, and provide hope and a second chance to those who earn it. In addition to everything else, billions of dollars will be saved. I look forward to signing this into law!”