The federal prison inmate population is about 183,000. That could be cut by almost a third in the course of one year, if lawmakers on Capitol Hill succeed in passing a new law. Monday, Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn acting as majority whip – the number two leader in the Senate – delivered an impassioned speech calling for passage of the First Step Act. It’s a first step toward major criminal justice reform.
Admitting that this could make some of his fellow Republicans worry they might be seen as soft of crime, Cornyn said this legislation is about being smart on crime, and getting the best results. And as a bonus, this may turn into one of the single biggest feats of bipartisanship in a long time
Natalie Andrews covers politics for the Wall Street Journal. She says the First Step Act would ease federal prison sentencing requirements, and would offer early release opportunities to thousands of federal prisoners.
Andrews says Cornyn has been advocating changes similar to those in the /first Step Act since 2014.
“It’s about three-quarters the way similar, according to his office,” she says.
Andrews says the new law would revise “tough-on-crime” legislation that dates back to the 90s, including the “three strikes rule” that imposes a mandatory life prison sentence for a third federal drug conviction. The First Step Act reduces the mandatory sentence to 25 years.
Disparities in sentencing for crack cocaine offenses, versus powder cocaine, would also be reduced by the bill.
If the Senate passes the bill, it goes to the House, where it is expected to pass with bipartisan support. President Donald Trump supports the bill.
Written by Shelly Brisbin.