Washington, D.C. – House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) today delivered the following statement during the Committee’s markup of the FIRST STEP Act (H.R. 5682). This bill, introduced 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: Today we consider H.R. 5682, or the FIRST STEP Act introduced by Congressmen Doug Collins and Hakeem Jeffries.
Over two years ago, we launched our Committee’s criminal justice reform initiative. In doing so, we declared that the Committee’s initiative will pursue responsible, common sense criminal justice reforms to make sure our federal laws and regulations punish wrongdoers, protect individual freedom, work as efficiently and fairly as possible, do not duplicate state efforts, and do not waste taxpayer dollars.
The FIRST STEP Act that we are considering today is a direct result of that initiative and adheres to the objectives we set forth then.
H.R. 5682 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 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.
This bill is vitally important for a number of reasons. First, the growing prison budget is consuming an ever-increasing percentage of the Department of Justice’s budget. These rising costs are becoming a real and immediate threat to public safety. The more dollars we put into unnecessary prison costs, the fewer dollars we can invest in criminal and national security investigations and prosecutions. Imagine our communities with fewer US Marshals, ATF, FBI, and DEA agents to investigate and prevent crime and imagine our communities with fewer US Attorneys to prosecute crimes.
Second, we know that without programming and intervention, prisoners are more likely to recidivate. We cannot allow the cycle of crime to continue. By using a focused approach for each prisoner, we can lower the risk of recidivism. Fewer recidivists mean fewer prisoners in the future, greater savings to the American taxpayer and safer communities. This bill is important because when prisoners who have received intervention are released, they are less likely to commit crimes. When that happens, our streets and communities are safer, and former prisoners are more likely to leave the life of crime behind and become productive members of society and contribute to their communities.
I want to thank the gentleman from Georgia, Mr. Collins, and the gentleman from New York, Mr. Jeffries for introducing this innovative and much needed piece of legislation. I now yield to the Ranking Member, Mr. Nadler.