In a fitting representation of the holiday season, Democrat and Republican lawmakers are coming together in overwhelming bipartisan support for new legislation on prison reform.
And, on Wednesday, the First Step Act was openly praised by President Trump and more than 2,200 evangelical pastors pledged their support through a letter.
As Washington Examiner reports, the bill would reduce sentencing for some federal prison sentences:
Shorter sentences for federal prison sentences may be on the horizon, with President Trump’s blessing.
Trump endorsed new legislation Wednesday that would reduce some federal sentences, arguing it’s “the right thing to do” and that only “truly bad criminals” deserve harsh penalties.
“Today’s announcement shows that true bipartisanship is possible, and maybe it will be thriving,” Trump said at the White House, via the report. “It’s my honor to be involved, and it will be an even greater honor to sign.”
Trump then encouraged lawmakers to “go out and see if you can get that done.”
“I’ll be waiting with a pen, and we will have something that hasn’t been done in many many years, and it’s the right thing to do,” he added.
The bill itself takes modest steps to achieve shorter federal sentencing for drug-related crimes. “Bill provisions include shortening federal three-strike drug penalties from life in prison to 25 years, reducing two-strike drug penalties from 20 years to 15, allowing a firearm sentencing enhancement to run concurrently with the underlying penalty, and allowing retroactive sentencing for crack cocaine cases judged under tougher historical laws,” the Washington Examiner reports.
“The legislation fixes some longstanding problems in the federal criminal justice system,” Joe Luppino-Esposito, director of rule of law initiatives at the Due Process Institute, said via the Washinton Examiner. “President Trump wants law enforcement to expend its resources on stopping violent criminals and drug cartels, not warehousing small-time, nonviolent drug offenders.”
As the Rolling Stone reports, several celebrities including Kim Kardashian, Van Jones, and more than 50 other celebrities announced support for an earlier version of the same criminal justice reform bill.
Check it out:
Since taking up Johnson’s cause, Kardashian West has partnered with #cut50, a bipartisan criminal justice reform organization founded by CNN’s Van Jones and attorney Jessica Jackson Sloan. In January, Kushner reached out to #cut50 for help with what was then called the Prison Reform and Redemption Act. In May, the House of Representatives passed a reworked version of the bill called the First Step Act, although it failed to garner enough support to make it through the Senate. The bill has since been reworked again to include sentencing reform (the initial version didn’t), and is now poised for a presidential endorsement. It’s supported by party leaders on both sides of the aisle, the ACLU, the Koch brothers, several law enforcement agencies and, as Rolling Stone learned Wednesday morning, a list of over 50 celebrities that have signed a letter addressed congressional leaders urging them to take the steps necessary to sign the bill into law before Congress breaks in mid-December.
Among the celebrities to sign the letter are musicians like Kanye West, Aloe Blacc, Peter Gabriel and Esperanza Spalding; actors like Alyssa Milano, Courtney Cox and Alicia Silverstone; athletes like Baron Davis, Delanie Walker and Benjamin Watson; and plenty of other notable figures like Kardashian West, Mark Cuban, Eric Bolling and even fired White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci. “I am proud to stand with this incredible group of artists, content creators, and athletes in urging Congress to pass the First Step Act,” Van Jones, who also signed the letter, tells Rolling Stone in a statement.
The bill does have some opposition though, specifically from Republican Senator Tom Cotton and some others who say components of the bill need to be discussed at a public hearing. These components, Cotton argues, include loosely or vaguely defined terms which could allow serial traffickers to be released back on the streets: