Fitzpatrick, House Send Historic Criminal Justice Reform to President
Washington, DC—Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-08) joined the U.S. House of Representatives and overwhelmingly passed the FIRST STEP Act [S. 756], prison reform that would lower recidivism and prison populations through rehabilitative programming.
The Formerly Incarcerated Reenter Society Transformed, Safely Transitioning Every Person Act (FIRST STEP) aims to improve public safety while lowering recidivism and prison populations through rehabilitative programing, enabling newly-released individuals to more successfully re-enter society.
“I’m proud to cast my vote in support of the FIRST STEP Act with my fellow Problem Solvers Caucus members today,” said Fitzpatrick. “As a former FBI agent, I understand criminal justice reform is critically important to reducing crime and recidivism. Today’s bipartisan measure demonstrates our investment and confidence in our fellow Americans. While there is still more work to accomplish, today’s vote marks a generational shift towards a criminal justice system that establishes a more practical, efficient rehabilitative framework to keep communities safe. I appreciate the tireless work of bipartisan advocates, my colleagues, and members of the Administration who made today’s positive outcome a reality.”
Reducing Recidivism and Increasing Public Safety: The bill creates a risk and needs assessment system that will ensure each prisoner’s risk of re-offending is assessed. The First Step Act also:
- Provides evidence-based recidivism reduction programming for federal prisoners;
- Provides incentives to federal prisoners for participating in First Step programming, including the earning of time credits towards a pre-release custody at a halfway house or home confinement; and
- Excludes violent and high risk criminals, including fentanyl traffickers, from using time credits.
Reforming Select Sentencing Laws: Under the First Step Act, sentencing is made fairer through narrow reforms. Namely, the First Step Act:
- Clarifies that enhanced penalties for using a firearm during a crime of violence or drug crime should be reserved for repeat offenders of such crimes;
- Reduces the three-strike penalty for non-violent drug offenses from life imprisonment to 25 years;
- Broadens mandatory penalties for serious violent offenders;
- Expands the existing federal safety valve to include more low-level, non-violent offenders and maintains safeguards to prohibit violent criminals from potentially benefitting from reduced sentences; and
- Allows for the retroactive application of the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 for drug offenders sentenced under the “crack disparity” who petition for a reconsideration of their sentence.
Additional provisions of the bill would require that prisoners be placed in facilities located nearer their families, prohibit female inmates from being shackled during child birth and provide individuals leaving custody with identification documents that are often prerequisites for employment.
In May, the House passed the FIRST STEP Act with the support of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus.