Washington, D.C. – The House Judiciary Committee today approved by a vote of 25-5 a bill to reform the federal prison system, the Formerly Incarcerated Reenter Society Transformed Safely Transitioning Every Person Act (H.R. 5682). This bill, also known as the FIRST STEP Act and 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. These targeted reforms enhance public safety by improving the effectiveness and efficiency of the federal prison system in order to control corrections spending, manage the prison population, provide educational and vocational training to inmates so they can successfully reenter society once released, and reduce recidivism.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), Congressman Collins, and Congressman Jeffries praised today’s approval of the bill in the statements below.
Chairman Goodlatte: “The vast majority of federal prisoners will someday be released from prison and it is important to give them tools to become more productive citizens so that they don’t return to a life of crime. The FIRST STEP Act provides inmates the help they need to successfully reenter society, which will in turn enhance the safety of our communities. I thank Representatives Collins and Jeffries for their work on and dedication to this important issue. I am pleased the House Judiciary Committee today voted to approve this bill, and I look forward to working on other initiatives to improve the criminal justice system with Members of Congress and the Trump Administration.”
Congressman Collins: “The bipartisan support that is sending the FIRST STEP Act to the House floor reflects the resolve that I’ve seen among my colleagues to make positive strides toward restorative justice today and to use that progress to build a bridge toward additional reforms in the days ahead. As we work to increase public safety by equipping men and women to rejoin their communities as productive citizens, I’m thankful to be joined in that labor by Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, Chairman Bob Goodlatte, Congresswoman Karen Bass and insightful lawmakers who understand that sound policy is how we promote human dignity in our prisons and across our society.”
Congressman Jeffries: “The mass incarceration epidemic is 50 years in the making. Fixing our broken criminal justice system will take an all-hands-on-deck effort from my colleagues on both sides of the aisle. The FIRST STEP Act is a significant step in the right direction. My colleagues, particularly Congressman Collins and Senators Whitehouse and Cornyn, should be commended for their stalwart leadership on this issue.”
Key Components of the FIRST STEP Act:
Strengthens Public Safety:
- The FIRST STEP Act implements a post-sentencing dynamic risk-assessment system to determine an inmate’s risk of committing more crimes upon release from prison. Under the bill, the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) would utilize effective recidivism reduction programs and provide incentives for inmates to participate in those programs. Ultimately, inmates could earn credits toward an alternative custody arrangement — such as a halfway house or home confinement — at the end of their prison sentence.
- Renders criminals convicted of certain serious offenses ineligible for the alternative custody program, including dangerous sexual offenders, murderers, and others.
Enhances Prison Security:
- The bill requires the Director of BOP to provide a secure storage area outside the secure perimeter for employees to store firearms or to allow for vehicle lock boxes for firearms.
- The bill requires the Director of BOP to provide de-escalation training as part of the regular training requirements of correctional officers.
Provides Inmates the Help They Need:
- The bill provides more employment opportunities for inmates by expanding the federal prison industries program.
- The bill requires BOP to initiate pilot programs for youth mentorship and the training and therapy of rescue dogs.
- It requires BOP to submit a report and evaluation of the current pilot program to treat heroin and opioid abuse through medication assisted treatment.
- The bill extends the compassionate elderly release provision from the Second Chance Act that allows the prisoner to request for his or her compassionate release if he or she meets the requirements set out in the law.
- The bill codifies BOP’s rules on using restraints on pregnant inmates, which generally prohibit the use of restraints on pregnant inmates except those who are an immediate and credible flight risk or threat of harm to herself, the baby, or others.