The House passed a prison reform bill on Tuesday that would expand prison work programs that provide job training for prisoners at the taxpayers’ expense.
The bill, known as H.R. 5682, or the First Step Act, passed 360-59, with 226 Republicans voting for the bill, 134 Democrats backing the bill, and 57 Democrats opposed to the measure. The bill will move to the Senate, where Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) has led the charge to oppose the legislation.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) praised the bill’s passage through Congress on Tuesday. In a statement on Tuesday, McCarthy said:
Inmates should be given a fair shot at returning home as responsible citizens after they have paid their debt to society for certain crimes. Yet our federal prison system subjects many inmates to harsh punishments without merit, isolation, and idleness that make it challenging for them to transition back to ordinary life.
The FIRST STEP Act passed today by the House will bring meaningful change for thousands of inmates incarcerated in the federal prison system. The bill will provide inmates with individualized support such as jobs training during and after their period of incarceration. The bill also will improve prison conditions and ensure inmates are incarcerated within reasonable driving distance of their families. These evidence-based reforms reduce the likelihood that inmates will reoffend once they return to society.
Breitbart News has reported on how Trump teamed up with his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, CNN host Van Jones to promote the prison reform bill that Attorney General Jeff Sessions opposes.
The bill would result in the “immediate release of 4,000 prisoners” and would spend $50 million over five years training inmates.
According to a Harvard-Harris poll, only six percent of Americans list prison reform as their number one priority for the country. Only six percent of Republican voters and less than ten percent of undecided voters believe that Congress should prioritize prison reform.
Five percent of President Donald Trump supporters believe that prison reform is a top issue for them.
The bill will face significant hurdles as it moves through the Senate, as Sen. Cotton opposes the bill and Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) suggested that they would have to include substantial changes for the bill to pass through the Senate.
A spokesman for Sen. Cotton said:
Senator Cotton believes it’s important that we get prison reform right, and that any legislation must fully protect law-abiding Americans. He’s consulted with Arkansans and several law enforcement groups and is actively working with his colleagues to address his concerns with the current bill.
Sen. Grassley also said in a statement on Tuesday that the Senate must include sentencing reform for any criminal justice bill to pass through Congress’s upper chamber.
Grassley added, “Finally, it’s clear that Senate Democrats won’t support a bill that does not include sentencing reform.”