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Analysis

Barr Pledges to Implement FIRST STEP Act

“I will faithfully implement the law,” the attorney general nominee testified.

January 15, 2019

Lead­ing up to Tues­day’s Senate confirm­a­tion hear­ings for William Barr, Pres­id­ent Trump’s nominee for attor­ney general, there were concerns about Barr’s hard­line record on crim­inal justice, and his level of commit­ment to imple­ment­ing the recently passed FIRST STEP Act, a bipar­tisan crim­inal justice reform bill that includes major federal senten­cing reforms. 

Barr sought to put those concerns to rest in his testi­mony Tues­day. 

“Will you commit to fully imple­ment­ing the FIRST STEP Act?” asked Sen. Chuck Grass­ley, a key cham­pion of the law.

“Yes, senator,” Barr respon­ded. Barr said that when he was last attor­ney general in the early 1990s, the viol­ent crime rate was high and prison sentences were short. The system had broken down, he said. Barr argued that the growth of the prison popu­la­tion helped bring crime down since then, some­thing the Bren­nan Center strongly disputes. But he acknow­ledged that times have changed.

“I have no prob­lem with the approach of reform­ing the prison struc­ture and I will faith­fully imple­ment the law.”

(Image: Chip Somod­ev­illa/Getty)