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First Step
Congress could reform prison legislation
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The bipartisan First Step Act could be approved by Congress between now and January. If it passes, it will be the most sweeping set of changes to the federal criminal justice system since the 1990s.

Even people who are not wild about this bill say the First Step Act at least lives up to its name — it’s a start on curbing prison spending, relieving prison overcrowding, making the justice system more fair and increasing efforts to reduce recidivism.

This bill could allow thousands of well-behaved prisoners to earn their freedom earlier than current law allows. In Kansas, incarcerated persons can have their sentences reduced by 15 to 20 percent for “good time.”

Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kansas) reports that this week he joined Senate colleagues on both sides of the aisle in sponsoring the First Step Act. Moran wrote:

“This sensible legislation – that’s backed by the President – provides an opportunity for Congress to set aside our differences and make historic progress on bipartisan criminal justice reform. The First Step Act increases fairness in crime and drug sentencing, helps curb the devastating opioid epidemic and helps make our communities safer. This bill also promotes proven recidivism reduction and professional development programs which will create better opportunities for inmates to succeed after they serve time. Under this legislation, any savings generated by the reforms would automatically be reinvested into law enforcement programs to further reduce crime and improve community safety. 

“The First Step Act combines prison reform proposals that overwhelmingly passed the House of Representatives earlier this year with sentencing reform provisions from the bipartisan Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, which was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee in February. Additionally, the legislation is supported by a wide range of stakeholders from key law enforcement organizations to reform advocates.” 

This is the kind of work we would like to see Congress doing — using common sense and making things better. We can only hope that the First Step Act won’t be the last step in a better direction.

We are also ready to see some positive, bipartisan “first steps” in dealing sensibly with immigration issues, infrastructure improvement and many other issues.