By Lucia Bragg
The House Judiciary Committee passed the FIRST STEP Act, HR 5682, by a vote of 25-5.
Introduced by Representative Doug Collins (R-Ga.) and Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) the bill, which passed on May 8, addresses challenges relating to mental health, substance abuse, education, and work opportunities for former federal inmates as a means to reduce recidivism.
If an inmate in the federal prison system is eligible, the bill provides incentives for participation in evidence-based recidivism reduction programs via earned time credits that allow inmates to serve a final portion of their term in halfway houses or home confinement.
Additionally, the bill would leverage post-sentencing risk and needs assessments to determine both the most effective program for any given inmate, and predict an inmate’s likelihood of reoffending upon release.
HR 5682 also would extend existing provisions in the Second Chance Act that creates a mechanism for eligible elderly inmates to be let out early on compassionate release.
White House officials were in the room during the committee’s markup session, which may be a signal that the Trump administration seeks action in the area of criminal justice reform, specifically around the issue of re-entry. The bill could be considered on the House floor at any time.
Lucia Bragg is a policy associate with NCSL's State-Federal Relations Division.