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senate Bill S. 756

First Step Act: Reforming Federal Corrections and Sentencing Policies to Reduce Recidivism

Argument in favor

This bipartisan bill makes important reforms to the federal prison system to control costs while improving programs aimed at reducing recidivism when prisoners are released, including through substance abuse treatment and job training. It has important safeguards to ensure that particularly violent and dangerous criminals aren’t released early.

Samantha's Opinion
···
12/18/2018
This reform is imperative for drug offenders especially. Most drug offenders (who by the way get harsher punishments than sex offenders and rapist) have an addiction problem that needs to be rehabilitated. Giving them drug treatment and shorter sentences allows them to address their addiction and return to society with a clear head and tools to combat their addiction. Having them locked up like animals in cages without the tools to get to the root of the problem which is the addiction for lengthy periods of time with others with the same or similar offenses only places them in a position to not only come out as even worse future drug offenders having gained more contacts while in prison to help further their future drug offenses. It also keeps our jails overpopulated, crime rising, and more importantly families torn apart. We have to fix the root of the problem if we want a real change and giving drug offenders the right tools to fight their addiction is better for society. This is a much needed bill that needs to pass.
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Kodiwodi's Opinion
···
07/25/2018
Debris is choking our oceans and waterways killing our sea life and destroying our quality of life when visiting our vast coastlines. While we may not be responsible for all of it we do contribute through our activities and it’s not going away. Our choices become learn to live with it which is a bit unappealing and a lot selfish or figure out perhaps in combination with others how to get rid of it for good which is for everyone’s benefit.
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burrkitty's Opinion
···
07/25/2018
Between 50 and 85% of the oxygen we breathe is derived directly from the phytoplankton which are the base of the oceanic food chain. Damaging the ocean system with pollution will literally kill us. Terrestrial plants cannot support the oxygen needs of the whole planet. Especially with the current deforestation rate. Protect the ocean.
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Argument opposed

While the reforms to the federal prison system this bill offers may be worthwhile, it should be expanded to include reforms to shorten sentences for non-violent crime further. Alternatively, this bill would let too many inmates out of prison before they’ve reformed themselves, which would endanger public safety.

Lionman's Opinion
···
12/18/2018
I’m not sure why the Save our Seas is now tied up with Prison Reform. They’re vastly different issues that should never be put together. The legislation currently before us really only benefits the Private Prisons, who are pushing this legislation.
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Hillary's Opinion
···
12/19/2018
Create a release program that releases prisoners into re-entry programs instead of dropping them on the street with no money, no medicine, no clothes, no ID, and nowhere to sleep. No for profit prisons ever. Non violent drug users don’t need 20 years in prison they need medical help. Legalize marijuana and tax it now. Get all non-violent prisoner convicted on marijuana use out of jail now. Get real education for prisoners.
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Robert's Opinion
···
12/18/2018
Criminals will always be criminals. Put them to work being productive while incarcerated. After a few years of good hard labor that should help get them in the right direction.
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bill Progress


  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The house Passed December 20th, 2018
    Roll Call Vote 358 Yea / 36 Nay
      house Committees
      Committee on Natural Resources
      Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
  • The senate Passed December 19th, 2018
    Roll Call Vote 87 Yea / 12 Nay
      senate Committees
      Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation
    IntroducedMarch 29th, 2017

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What is Senate Bill S. 756?

(Updated 12/16/18): This bill was amended from its original form (the Save Our Seas Act) by the Senate to serve as the legislative vehicle for bipartisan criminal justice reform legislation. In its current form — the First Step  Act would implement reforms to the federal prison system to control corrections spending, manage the prison population, provide educational and vocational training to inmates so they can successfully re-enter society, and reduce recidivism. It’d also reform sentencing rules and Bureau of Prison (BOP) policies. A breakdown of the bill’s major provisions can be found below.

Recidivism  Reduction

The BOP would be required to conduct risk- and needs-assessments for every offender upon sentencing and offer individualized, evidence-based recidivism reduction plans to all inmates. Programs could include vocational training, educational support, substance abuse treatment, mental healthcare, anger management courses, faith-based initiatives or other proven, productive activities.

Low- and minimum-risk inmates would be able to earn time credits toward prerelease custody or supervised release (like a halfway house or home confinement) at the end of their prison sentences. Inmates would earn 10 days of credit for each 30 day period of participation in recidivism reduction programs, while eligible prisoners whose recidivism risks haven’t increased over their last two assessments would get an additional 5 days of credit (for a total of 15 days credit earned per participation period). A prisoner could only be placed in supervised release for a period of 12 months or less, and if they commit a non-technical violation of the conditions for their release it would be revoked.

Certain inmates would be ineligible for time credits, including those convicted of:

  • Terrorism;

  • Murder;

  • Sexual exploitation of children;

  • Espionage;

  • Violent firearms offenses;

  • Organizing, managing, or supervising the methamphetamine, fentanyl, or heroin drug trade;

  • Smuggling unauthorized immigrants with records of aggravated felonies to the U.S.;

  • Importing unauthorized immigrants for prostitution;

  • Female genital mutilation;

  • Drug-related robberies involving assault with a dangerous weapon;

  • Carjacking resulting in serious bodily injury;

  • Threatening to murder a congressman, senator, or government official;

  • Assault of a spouse, intimate partner or dating partner by strangling, suffocating or resulting in substantial bodily injury;

  • Arson;

  • Domestic assault by a habitual offender;

  • Providing or possessing contraband, including firearms, in prison;

  • Rioting in a correctional facility;

  • Felonies committed while in a criminal street gang;

  • Escaping from prison;

  • Unlawful conduct related to documents furthering trafficking, peonage, slavery, involuntary servitude, or forced labor;

  • Failure to register as a sex offender.

Additionally, unauthorized immigrant inmates who are subject to a deportation order would be ineligible to earn time credits.

Sentencing Reform

This section of the bill would reduce prison sentences for non-violent drug offenders while tightening penalties for violent and career offenders. It would also provide more judicial discretion in the process of sentencing and helping inmates re-enter society.

Enhanced mandatory minimums for prior drug felons would be reduced. The three-strike mandatory penalty from life imprisonment to 25 years, while the 20-year mandatory minimum would be reduced to 15 years. Additionally, the offenses that trigger enhanced mandatory minimum sentences would be reformed to include any prior drug felonies that occurred within the last 15 years, or serious violent felonies.

The “safety valve” that allows judges to authorize a sentence below the statutory minimum for non-violent, low-level drug offenders would be broadened if the offender:

  • Has up to 4 criminal history points (those with prior “3-point” felony convictions with sentences over 13 months or prior “2-point” violent offenses with 60+ day sentences would be ineligible);

  • Didn’t use violence or possess any dangerous weapon;

  • Didn’t commit an offense resulting in death or serious bodily injury;

  • Wasn’t an organizer, leader, manager, or supervisor of others in the offense;

  • Has fully cooperated with law enforcement in providing all information and evidence related to their crimes.

Prison Reform

This section of the bill would enact several reforms aimed at improving conditions for inmates, such as:

  • The compassionate elderly release provision of the Second Chance Act, which allows the prisoner to request his or her compassionate release if they meet the law’s requirements, would be reauthorized.

  • BOP rules on the use of restraints on pregnant inmates — which generally prohibit the use of restraints on pregnant inmates except for those who are an immediate and credible flight risk or threat of harm to herself, the baby, or others — would be codified into law.

  • BOP would be required to place prisoners at a correctional facility within 500 driving miles of their primary residence that’s as close to home as possible unless the prisoner chooses to remain at their current facility. Prisoners with a security designation higher than the facilities closest to their primary residence wouldn’t be transferred to a lower-security prison because of this provision.

  • The federal prison industries program would be expanded to provide more employment opportunities for inmates.

  • BOP would be required to start pilot programs for youth mentorship and the training and therapy of rescue dogs, and it would also have to evaluate the current pilot program to treat heroin and opioid abuse through medication-assisted treatment.

  • BOP would be required to provide feminine hygiene products at no cost.

  • There would be required dyslexia screening and treatment.

The use of juvenile solitary confinement would be restricted for any reason other than as a temporary response to behavior posing a serious and immediate risk of physical harm. BOP staff would be required to use the least restrictive techniques, including talking with the juvenile, and attempt to get them care by a qualified mental health professional. If solitary confinement is necessary, BOP staff would fully inform the juvenile about it, and the maximum term of confinement would depend on the risk of immediate physical harm.

The BOP would be required to provide a secure storage area outside the secure facility perimeter for employees to store firearms or to allow for vehicle lock boxes for firearms so corrections officers can protect themselves if they’re ambushed when leaving work. BOP employees could carry concealed firearms on the premises outside the secured perimeter of the facility. BOP would also be required to offer de-escalation training as part of the regular training requirements of correctional officers.

Impact

Prisoners and their families; corrections officers and BOP employees; communities and crime victims; and the BOP.

Cost of Senate Bill S. 756

$0.00
A CBO cost estimate is unavailable.

More Information

In-Depth: Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) offered the following statement on this criminal justice reform package:

“Over the last several years, we’ve expanded support for comprehensive criminal justice reform by listening to stakeholders and lawmakers to strike a balance that reduces crime and recidivism, and the associated taxpayer burden, while ensuring that dangerous and career criminals face steep consequences for their actions. Today’s update represents the latest in our effort to achieve this goal. I appreciate the engagement from many of my colleagues to fine tune the most significant criminal justice reform in a generation, and I applaud President Trump and the White House for bringing everyone to the table to make this happen. Following these changes and the growing demonstration of support for this bill, Leader McConnell is keeping his word by pledging to hold a vote this year.”

Original cosponsor Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) added:

“The bipartisan First Step Act is a once in a political lifetime aligning of the stars. Republicans, Democrats, President Trump, Fraternal Order of Police, and ACLU have all thrown their support behind our bill. This bipartisan compromise could be one of the most important things we do when it comes to criminal justice not only this year but for a long time. I commend my colleagues for their spirit of cooperation on this important piece of legislation and I look forward to getting this job done in the closing weeks of this session.”

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) said that while he supports recidivism reduction, he believes this bill would grant too many dangerous offenders an early release:

“Up to 2,500 serious drug traffickers are going to be released almost immediately within weeks or months of this bill passing. It is an almost mathematical certainty that someone is going to commit a heinous crime if this bill passes.”

This legislation has the support of at least 35 cosponsors in the Senate, in addition to the Fraternal Order of Police, the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, Cut50, the National District Attorneys Association, the Law Enforcement Leaders to Reduce Crime & Incarceration, and the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

This legislation is the Senate’s version of a criminal justice reform bill the House passed (also known as the FIRST STEP Act) on a 360-59 vote in May 2018.


Media:

Summary by Eric Revell

(Photo Credit: iStock.com / thevinman)

AKA

Save Our Seas Act of 2017

Official Title

A bill to reauthorize and amend the Marine Debris Act to promote international action to reduce marine debris, and for other purposes.

    This reform is imperative for drug offenders especially. Most drug offenders (who by the way get harsher punishments than sex offenders and rapist) have an addiction problem that needs to be rehabilitated. Giving them drug treatment and shorter sentences allows them to address their addiction and return to society with a clear head and tools to combat their addiction. Having them locked up like animals in cages without the tools to get to the root of the problem which is the addiction for lengthy periods of time with others with the same or similar offenses only places them in a position to not only come out as even worse future drug offenders having gained more contacts while in prison to help further their future drug offenses. It also keeps our jails overpopulated, crime rising, and more importantly families torn apart. We have to fix the root of the problem if we want a real change and giving drug offenders the right tools to fight their addiction is better for society. This is a much needed bill that needs to pass.
    Like (75)
    Follow
    Share
    I’m not sure why the Save our Seas is now tied up with Prison Reform. They’re vastly different issues that should never be put together. The legislation currently before us really only benefits the Private Prisons, who are pushing this legislation.
    Like (72)
    Follow
    Share
    Debris is choking our oceans and waterways killing our sea life and destroying our quality of life when visiting our vast coastlines. While we may not be responsible for all of it we do contribute through our activities and it’s not going away. Our choices become learn to live with it which is a bit unappealing and a lot selfish or figure out perhaps in combination with others how to get rid of it for good which is for everyone’s benefit.
    Like (46)
    Follow
    Share
    Create a release program that releases prisoners into re-entry programs instead of dropping them on the street with no money, no medicine, no clothes, no ID, and nowhere to sleep. No for profit prisons ever. Non violent drug users don’t need 20 years in prison they need medical help. Legalize marijuana and tax it now. Get all non-violent prisoner convicted on marijuana use out of jail now. Get real education for prisoners.
    Like (40)
    Follow
    Share
    Between 50 and 85% of the oxygen we breathe is derived directly from the phytoplankton which are the base of the oceanic food chain. Damaging the ocean system with pollution will literally kill us. Terrestrial plants cannot support the oxygen needs of the whole planet. Especially with the current deforestation rate. Protect the ocean.
    Like (37)
    Follow
    Share
    Criminals will always be criminals. Put them to work being productive while incarcerated. After a few years of good hard labor that should help get them in the right direction.
    Like (24)
    Follow
    Share
    Senate Bill S.3649 – The First Step Act I’m in full agreement with and recommend passage of the SENATE bill S. 3649 AKA the First Step Act — a package of sweeping reforms designed to reduce incarceration rates and recidivism within the federal criminal-justice system — was drafted by Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois. Despite receiving broad bipartisan support and the staunch backing of White House adviser Jared Kushner. I’m in disagreement with law-and-order hardliners, led by Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas who have argued that it will lead to a surge in crime and have accused Republican proponents of attempting to rush it through Congress. SneakyPete..... 👍🏻👍🏻👍🏻. 12*11*18.....
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    Of course, yes. If we don’t take care of the Earth, it will take care of us.
    Like (19)
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    The very fact you even felt it necessary to ask this question is stunning . Of course we need to fight marine debris! Don’t hold your breath. Trump is anti science and anti environment . Vote only for Democrats. Send the Republican ignoramuses home
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    The shear enormity of the problem goes way beyond someone throwing trash in the ocean although that too should be addressed. Commercial dumping must take priority, but this administration which has turned its back on the environment in favor of letting business operate unchecked is not going change its philosophies. We need to change the administration.
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    More tax monies down the drain
    Like (12)
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    The only reason these Prison issues are suddenly in the spot light is due to the fact Trump and his Administration ARE ALL GOING TO PRISON.
    Like (11)
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    Finally something sensible! For our own good, we must take action to clean up the ocean debris. If not, the food chain will continue to be negatively impacted and the garbage will end up here and or back here.
    Like (11)
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    Protecting our oceans needs to be a priority what republicans do not seem to understand is that 70 percent of the oxygen we breath comes from the ocean so it is a matter of life or death
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    I don’t like how this is worded. Stop trying to saddle agencies with impossible tasks to further overburden them. Yes, the president should start acting like science and human effects are real, yes, everyone should take a more active stance on marine trash- but don’t tie up NOAA’s funding or operations with this. Given all the cuts to science agencies, they need to keep their focus on the work they’re already doing. If you’re going to give them boatloads more money, then I’m sure they’d love to tackle this problem.
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    Yes absolutely. The debri in the ocean is getting ridiculous
    Like (8)
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    These reforms to the federal prison system seem worthwhile, it should be expanded to include - reforms to shorten sentences for non-violent crime, - This bill, the way it is, would let too many inmates out of prison before they’ve reformed so that needs to be addressed with guidance on how to decide who is reformed.
    Like (7)
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    This does NOTHING but help the GOP commit more outrageous things and get an easier sentence. How about the HOP PUSHES THROUGH a bill that would RELEASE ALL MINOR MARIJUANA RELATED convicts out of prison and wipe the conviction off their record?! WOW WHAT A GREAT IDEA!
    Like (7)
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    Small steps. It’s not everything we wanted but it’s a good start. This is something to build on for the next bill.
    Like (6)
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    YES! It is so ridiculous that this problem persists because no one wants to take responsibility for it, especially the US as we are the world’s worst polluter. Keeping our oceans clean and healthy is a top national security priority. I’m a voter in Ohio’s 12th congressional district and I support this bill.
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