Washington, D.C. — House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) today delivered the following statement on the House floor in support of the FIRST STEP Act (H.R. 5682). This legislation, sponsored by Representatives Doug Collins (R-Ga.) and Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), improves the federal prison system through the implementation of corrections policy reforms.
Chairman Goodlatte: Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of H.R. 5682, the FIRST STEP Act. The bipartisan bill before us is a meaningful, historic criminal justice reform measure.
The FIRST STEP Act places a new focus on rehabilitation. While we recognize criminal behavior needs to be punished and criminals need to be incarcerated, we must also acknowledge that our prison population needs to be rehabilitated to the greatest extent practicable. The bill establishes a risk and needs assessment as the basis of both an effective recidivism reduction program and an efficient and effective federal prison system. The FIRST STEP Act will incentivize prisoners to participate in evidence based recidivism reduction programs, productive activities and jobs that will actually reduce their risk of recidivism.
We know that over 90% of all prisoners within the Bureau of Prisons will be released someday. That is an indisputable fact. We also know that without programming and intervention, which can train prisoners to be better citizens, not better criminals, prisoners are more likely to recidivate.
Mr. Speaker, rather than allowing the cycle of crime to continue, this legislation takes a practical, intelligent approach to rehabilitation. By using a focused approach for each prisoner, we can lower the risk of recidivism. That is what H.R. 5682 does. Fewer recidivists means fewer prisoners in the future. It means greater savings to the American taxpayer. More importantly, it means safer communities, fewer crimes, and of course, fewer victims. This bill is important because when prisoners who have received intervention and rehabilitation are released, they are less likely to commit crimes. When that happens, our streets are safer and innocent civilians are less likely to be victimized. Rehabilitated prisoners are more likely to leave the life of crime behind, become productive members of society and contribute to their communities. If that isn’t meaningful, Mr. Speaker, I don’t know what is.
I know there are some in this body that are opposing this legislation because it does not include sentencing reform. I support sentencing reform and have worked with my colleagues to find common ground on that issue. However, we should not let this opportunity pass by. The vast majority of Members of this House agree that this legislation is needed. Let us not linger any longer. Let us move this important and meaningful bill today.
Just look at the bipartisan support from outside interest groups that the FIRST STEP Act has received. Numerous organizations, almost too many to list in the allotted time we have, on both the left and the right, have enthusiastically endorsed this bill.
Finally, Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the chief sponsors of H.R. 5682, the gentleman from Georgia, Mr. Collins and the gentleman from New York, Mr. Jeffries. They worked tirelessly to get this bill to the floor and both should be applauded for their bipartisan approach to this issue.
I urge my colleagues to support the FIRST STEP Act and I reserve the balance of my time.