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WASHINGTON — The House by an overwhelming 360-59 vote passed a bipartisan reform bill Tuesday that provides more education for federal prisoners and gives them a second chance after their release.
Authored by Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-Brooklyn) and Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), the First Step Act would authorize $250 million over five years to develop and expand programs that reduce recidivism and give incentives for good behavior.
Bill - Inmates - Chances - GED - College
The bill would also boost current inmates’ chances for a GED, vocational and college courses as well as substance abuse and mental health help, Jeffries told lawmakers on the House floor.
“These are individuals who are in the system right now without hope, without opportunity, without a meaningful chance at transforming themselves,” Jeffries said. “And the First Step Act will provide that. … Why would we possibly refuse that?”
Opponent - Bill - Rep - Jerrold - Nadler
A chief opponent of the bill, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-Manhattan), said the legislation fails to reform sentencing guidelines and could even “exacerbate racial biases” when prison officials conduct a risk assessment for each offender.
“On principle, I cannot support legislation which fails to address the larger issues of sentencing reform,” said Nadler, the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee. “Though this bill makes some modest improvements in areas related to our prisons, it actually does more harm by cementing into our system new areas of racial biases and disadvantage that make worse a criminal justice system desperately in need of reform.”
Bill - Support - Groups - Charles - Koch
The bill earned diverse support from conservative groups – like the Charles Koch Institute and the Faith and Freedom Coalition – as well as progressive leaders like commentator Van Jones and his Dream Corps’ #cut50 initiative. But the ACLU and NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund opposed the bill, arguing it doesn’t go far enough.
The legislation is a priority for the White House, thanks to the advocacy of...
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