U.S. Senate passes criminal justice reform Bill

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

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

The act (pdf), co-sponsored by more than a third of the Senate, has evenly balanced support among both Democrats and Republicans.

Senators voted 87-12 for the First Step Act, which is created to promote the rehabilitation and societal reentry of prisoners while maintaining public safety.

Trump, likewise, took to Twitter to expressed his enthusiasm, writing how this bill "will keep our communities safer, and provide hope and a second chance, to those who earn it". But changes created to weaken the bill's impact, and strong support from the White House, Republican colleagues and conservative advocacy groups, persuaded McConnell to move ahead. "A wonderful thing for the United States of America!"

The House passed the bill, 358-36, Thursday amid a flurry of other bills approved in a year-end rush. Cory Booker, D-N.J., estimated that 96 percent of the prisoners who could be helped by the provision are black or Latino.

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In August 2016, the Obama administration announced it would begin phasing out private prisons, as the federal inmate population was dropping.

The Senate has passed the First Step Act, the biggest criminal justice reform package in decades.

The bill follows the example of states such as Texas, South Carolina and Georgia that have boosted training and treatment programs for inmates in an effort to curb recidivism and save taxpayer dollars.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) also praised members of the weekly bipartisan Senate prayer breakfast. Certain prisoners would be eligible for incentives if they participate, including credits that would allow them to spend up to a year of their sentences in facilities like halfway houses or at home under supervision. Another amendment would have required that victims be notified before a prisoner gets that earlier release.

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Conservatives and liberals in Congress worked in an uncharacteristically bipartisan fashion to pass the bill, which would apply only to the 180,789 people in federal prisons and future inmates, and not to the more than 2 million who are housed in state penitentiaries, the Associated Press reported. "Ninety-five percent of those who are incarcerated today will eventually be released back into our neighborhoods - failing to prepare people returning from prison endangers communities and wastes human potential".

What changes sought by activists as well as Democrats and Republicans were not included in the First Step Act? "I also remain concerned that reducing sentences for drug traffickers and violent felons is a threat to public safety". If his tweets are any indication, Trump is poised to sign the legislation into law, capping a yearslong effort to reform the federal prison system. For example, the Koch brothers-backed group, Americans for Prosperity, applauded senators for putting "policy ahead of politics". States have shown that it's possible to reduce incarceration rates and crime rates at the same time, said Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga. The endorsing organizations stretch from the American Civil Liberties Union and Center for American Progress to a host of conservative groups, including the ERLC and other evangelical entities, Heritage Action, The American Conservative Union and FreedomWorks.

The First Step Act is a result of many years of negotiation and advocacy for criminal justice reform.

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