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December 20, 2018

David Safavian
General Counsel
(202) 347-9388

Conservatives Applaud Passage of Criminal Justice Reform “First Step Act is the Most Consequential Criminal Justice Bill in a Generation”

WASHINGTON, DC—The U.S. House of Representatives passed the First Step Act this afternoon by an overwhelming and bipartisan vote of 358-36, after the Senate passed the measure 87-12. The legislation will reform the federal prison system, hold government more accountable for the tax dollars it spends, and makes common sense changes to our sentencing laws.

ACU Chairman Matt Schlapp noted: “Government often gets things wrong, and it is no different with the federal prison system. Our incarceration rates are unacceptably high, and we waste billions of tax dollars warehousing prisoners. Rather than leaving them on a course to fail and reoffend, we should be preparing them to be productive members of society. This bill is a good first step.”

Based on successes in states such as Texas, Mississippi and Georgia, the legislation establishes a new system to rehabilitate federal prisoners. It offers them an opportunity to move from prison to a half-way house or home confinement towards the end of their sentences, but only if they complete educational programming that has been proven to reduce recidivism. The benefits are limited to those inmates who can demonstrate their rehabilitation using objective standards. Those who remain public safety risks will stay in prison.

The First Step Act was endorsed by President Trump and sponsored by conservative law makers such as Senator Mike Lee (R-UT, 99% lifetime ACU rating), Senator Rand Paul (R-KY, 96% lifetime ACU rating) and Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA, 91% lifetime ACU Rating). However, it garnered bipartisan support in both the House and the Senate.

David Safavian, general counsel for the American Conservative Union (ACU), explained: “The First Step Act proves that we can bridge the partisan divide. But at its core, it is a starkly conservative bill, focusing on public safety first. It is based on evidence, instead of emotion. And it moves us away from our national addiction of filling prisons when we know there’s a better path forward. This approach has been proven to work in the states and we are certain it will be successful at the federal level to make us all safer.”

“It is the most consequential criminal justice bill in a generation. The strong and effective leadership of conservatives made these reforms possible. As a result, inmates will leave prison prepared to be good parents, good employees, and good neighbors. And our communities will be safer,” said Pat Nolan, the Director of the ACU Foundation’s Center for Criminal Justice Reform.

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Founded by William F. Buckley more than 50 years ago, the American Conservative Union is the nation’s oldest grassroots advocacy organization.