November 15, 2018 - 10:37 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - U.S. President Donald Trump boosted hopes of federal criminal justice reform on Wednesday, November 14 by announcing his support for the First Step Act, which seems increasingly likely to get a floor vote in the Senate before the end of the year, The Guardian reports.
“We’re all better off when former inmates can re-enter society as law-abiding, productive citizens,” Trump said at the White House. “Americans from across the political spectrum can unite around prison reform legislation that will reduce crime while giving our fellow citizens a chance at redemption.”
The act would expand rehabilitative opportunities for people in prison; ban some of the most startling correctional practices, such as the shackling of pregnant women; and reduce mandatory minimum sentences for a number of drug-related crimes.
The rare bipartisan effort was bolstered by a letter to senators from public figures including Van Jones, Mark Cuban, Patricia Arquette, Kim Kardashian West and Kanye West. A copy obtained by the Guardian called on Congress to “recognize the humanity” of inmates and declared that “186,000 people in federal prison and their family members” were counting on elected representatives to act.
The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, must now decide whether to bring the bill up for a vote. He has promised to do so if 60 votes for it can be expected – the amount needed to clear a filibuster. He also said, however, that he will have to see how the legislation “stacks up” with other priorities in the limited time before recess.
As with previous iterations of the bill – which has been in the works since 2015 – negotiations have concerned two components: prison reform and sentencing reform.
Prison reform, which focuses on improving conditions in federal prisons and programs to facilitate re-entry into society, enjoys broad bipartisan support. Sentencing reform, which would remove some harsh sentencing minimums imposed in the 1990s, is favored by Democrats but has fractured Republicans.