Upton, Davis, Collins laud president’s signing of First Step Act into law

U.S. Reps. Doug Collins (R-GA), Fred Upton
(R-MI), and Rodney Davis (R-IL) commended the president’s signing of the bipartisan First Step Act of 2018, a new law to reform the federal prison system.

The U.S. Senate on Dec. 18 concurred 87-12 with U.S. House of Representatives amendments to S. 756, which the House then passed 358-36 on Dec. 20. President Donald Trump signed the bill into law on Dec. 21.

Rep. Collins, who was joined by U.S. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) on May 7 in introducing the Formerly Incarcerated Reenter Society Transformed Safely Transitioning Every Person (FIRST STEP) Act, H.R. 5682, said the newly enacted law represents one of the most significant overhauls of the federal criminal justice system in a generation.

“The First Step Act invests in what Americans value most fiercely — people,” Rep. Collins said on Dec. 20 following House approval of S. 756. “We know that lives can be redirected and redeemed, and we’re committing to doing that with tools that are proven to work.”

“For 31 years,” the congressman added, “my father served his neighbors as a Georgia state trooper. Like him, this bill shows us that reverence for human life is fundamental to justice, and I’m thankful that so many of my colleagues stand here united in that same confidence.”

Rep. Upton said the new law will protect public safety and support inmates returning to society. “We are taking a very positive step today by cutting recidivism, encouraging job training, education, mental health, and substance abuse treatments for those incarcerated, and making our criminal justice system fairer,” he said following the House vote.

Additionally, said Rep. Davis, S. 756 “fixes some of the biggest injustices within the system that have led to increased recidivism rates and left a bigger bill for taxpayers.”

The First Step Act, according to a summary provided by Rep. Upton’s office, improves the nation’s prison system by permitting the Bureau of Prisons to use effective recidivism programs designed to help offenders successfully re-enter society. The measure also will set certain mandatory-minimum sentences, correct disparities in drug sentencing, and grant judges more discretion in sentencing of low-level, non-violent drug offenders.

“We would not have gotten this bill across the finish line without leadership from within the White House, Democrat and Republican members of Congress, and a variety of outside groups coming together to unite around re-focusing the system on rehabilitation and giving millions a second chance,” Rep. Davis said. “It’s a great example of what our government can accomplish when we set politics aside and commit to governing.”

The First Step Act garnered support from myriad groups, including the National Fraternal Order of Police and hundreds of former and current federal, state and local law enforcement officials.

Rep. Jeffries called passage of the bill “a victory for all Americans who believe in justice and the power of redemption.”

By providing access to mental health counseling, education, vocational services and substance abuse treatments, imprisoned individuals will be able to get back on their feet and become productive members of society, he said, adding that the new law “also provides retroactive relief for the shameful crack cocaine sentencing disparity that unfairly destroyed lives, families and communities.”