Rabiah Burks, 202-822-6700
FAMM Applauds Senate Passage of the First Step Act
The criminal justice organization says family advocates paved the way for reform.
WASHINGTON – FAMM President Kevin Ring issued the following statement today in response to the U.S. Senate’s bipartisan passage of the First Step Act (S. 3747) by a vote of 87 to 12:
“Today’s win comes because the families who are most affected by the issues addressed in the bill refused to stay quiet. Over the past year, members of Congress and their staff have received thousands upon thousands of calls, tweets, and emails and attended meetings with hundreds of directly impacted families, all in the name of passing comprehensive criminal justice reform.
“This is not simply a matter of policymaking to us. This is about people – specifically, the people we have gotten to know in the last 27 years while promoting these reforms. This bill is a first step to a more sane system of justice, but the fight isn’t close to being over. While the First Step Act will not undo decades of bad policy overnight, it promises to be the first step in a long overdue culture change in our federal justice system.”
Background on the First Step Act
The First Step Act is a modest but comprehensive criminal justice reform bill and includes both prison and sentencing reform. The bill incentivizes federal prisoners to take part in rehabilitative programming by offering increased time in pre-release custody, and reduces some of the federal government’s lengthiest mandatory minimums.
FAMM worked with Reps. Doug Collins (R-GA) and Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), the original bill sponsors, to ensure that the bill included reforms that address some of the problems that most plague the families of prisoners. These reforms include:
- Fixing the broken compassionate release process so that
- Terminally ill prisoners can receive family visits quickly, get help filing a request for release, and have their requests reviewed on an expedited timeline;
- Prisoners can appeal the denial of a compassionate release request to the courts after exhausting administrative procedures or if the Bureau of Prisons fails to respond to the request within 30 days;
- Requiring the Bureau of Prisons to incarcerate people within 500 driving miles of their families whenever security, programming, and medical needs permit;
- Increasing the amount of time prisoners earn for good behavior from 47 to 54 days per year, fixing a longstanding technical glitch in federal law;
- Requiring the Bureau of Prisons to put low-risk people in home confinement, which is currently underutilized, for the full amount of time allowed by law.
The First Step Act must now be approved by the House of Representatives before the chamber adjourns. The bill has the full endorsement of President Trump, the National Governors Association, law enforcement organizations, civil rights organizations, and congressional leaders from both parties.
For nearly three decades, FAMM has united the voices of affected families, the formerly incarcerated, and a range of stakeholders and advocates to fight for a more fair and effective justice system. FAMM’s focus on ending a one-size-fits-all punishment structure has led to reforms to sentencing and prison policies in 6 states and is paving the way to programs that support rehabilitation for the 94% of all prisoners who will return to our neighborhoods one day.
FAMM is a national nonpartisan advocacy organization that promotes fair and effective criminal justice policies that safeguard taxpayer dollars and keep our communities safe. Founded in 1991, FAMM is helping transform America’s criminal justice system by uniting the voices of impacted families and individuals and elevating the issues all across the country.
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