By Lucia Bragg
The U.S. House passed the FIRST STEP Act, HR 5682, by a vote of 360-59 on Tuesday.
Introduced by Representatives Doug Collins (R-Ga.) and Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), the bill 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 both determine the most effective program for any given inmate, and predict an inmate’s likelihood of reoffending upon release.
HR 5682 would also extend existing provisions in the Second Chance Act that creates a mechanism for eligible elderly inmates to be let out early on compassionate release.
The bill had passed the House Judiciary Committee on May 8 by a vote of 25-5. 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. Next, the bill will head to the Senate for consideration.
Lucia Bragg is a policy associate with NCSL's State-Federal Relations Division.