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Statement

Letter to Congress on the FIRST STEP Act

The new prison reform bill being considered by the House Judiciary Committee, the FIRST STEP Act, includes several important reforms and improves on prior legislation. But any true reform effort must take steps to reduce the number of people entering prison in the first place, which this bill does not do.

Published: May 8, 2018
The Bren­nan Center wrote a letter to House Judi­ciary Commit­tee lead­ers ahead of a markup vote on a prison reform bill that, experts say, does not make the scale of changes neces­sary to fix our broken justice system. Inimai Chet­tiar and Ames Grawert write: “The federal prison system currently fails to provide effect­ive reentry and rehab­il­it­a­tion services. Reforms to address that prob­lem, and improve over­all condi­tions of confine­ment, are neces­sary, and the FIRST STEP Act marks progress toward that goal. But we have a once-in-a-gener­a­tion oppor­tun­ity to pass compre­hens­ive crim­inal justice reform. If Congress were to advance the FIRST STEP Act without senten­cing reform, it would effect­ively cede its own lead­er­ship on crim­inal justice reform and let the Pres­id­ent and Attor­ney General set the terms of the debate. This would derail the best chance in years for real crim­inal justice reform — a tragic loss for racial justice.”
 
The Center was joined in its concerns by the Lead­er­ship Confer­ence on Civil and Human Rights, NAACP, ACLU, and other groups, who wrote a similar letter
 

Letter to Congress on the FIRST STEP Act