Skip Navigation
Press Release

House Must Reject Trump Prison Bill

The Brennan Center and a coalition of more than 100 civil rights organizations urge Congress to reject the FIRST STEP Act, and instead take up comprehensive sentencing reform.

May 22, 2018

New York, N.Y. – The House of Representatives today is preparing to pass the FIRST STEP Act, a modest prison reform bill being advanced by the president that will have no appreciable impact on mass incarceration rates in America. Instead, the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law and a coalition of more than 100 civil rights organizations urge Congress take up comprehensive sentencing reform that has broad, bipartisan support.

The following statement is attributable to Inimai Chettiar, director of the Brennan Center’s justice program:

“Like we’ve said from day one, the FIRST STEP Act is piecemeal improvement masquerading as real reform. Those who support this bill would have you believe it’s bipartisan and the result of a compromise. Neither is true. Progressives and conservatives already came together and compromised on the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, a bill that has Republican and Democratic support and would materially reduce the mass imprisonment of those shackled in our nation’s deplorable prisons.

“There’s no reason that after years of legislative back and forth we should now just vote up whatever Trump and his radical attorney general are serving up as an alternative. While the FIRST STEP Act would tinker around the edges of our prison system, it does nothing to reduce mandatory minimums that unnecessarily incarcerate thousands, and its supporter provide no roadmap forward. This isn’t a first step. If it passes, it will be half-hearted and perhaps the only step. That doesn’t do justice to the nearly 200,000 people locked in federal prison. And the bill’s supporters would allow them to pat themselves on the back for a job left unfinished.

“If Trump succeeds in ramming this law through the House, we ­— alongside a broad group of civil rights and law enforcement leaders — urge Sen. Charles Grassley and Democrats in the Senate to stop this half-hearted reform bill in its tracks. Re-up the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, and don’t allow President Trump and Attorney General Sessions to dictate the terms of the debate.”

Read our letter urging the House Judiciary Committee to reject the FIRST STEP Act.

Read the letter from a coalition of civil rights groups, including the Brennan Center, opposing FIRST STEP.

Read more about ending mass incarceration in America.

For more information or to speak with an expert, contact Trip Eggert at (646) 925–8794 or