Tennesseans Want the Bipartisan FIRST STEP Act 

Aug 6, 2018 by AFP

New data shows broad support for criminal justice reform

NASHVILLE, TN – Today, Americans for Prosperity-Tennessee released the results of a new survey showing that 70% of likely voters want the U.S. Senate to pass the bipartisan FIRST STEP Act in the next few months. The legislation would create access to second chances for individuals transitioning to life after prison and reduce the number of incarcerated Americans – an idea 72% of likely voters said was important.

The new survey follows research from Florida State University that shows both male and female inmates crave more opportunities to work, learn, practice a faith, improve their health, and spend more time developing personal relationships than they currently do while incarcerated.

AFP-TN State Director Tori Venable released the following statement:

“For too long, our criminal justice policies have hindered public safety by holding back folks who have paid their debt to society and are eager for a second chance. We urge Senators Corker and Alexander to remove barriers to opportunity and help people transition to life after prison by supporting the FIRST STEP Act.

“Not only are there chances for federal action, the next governor has a tremendous opportunity to pursue criminal justice reforms at the state-level and ensure individuals can contribute positively to society after paying their debt to society. Juvenile justice and bond reforms are areas where we encourage the governor to work with the legislature to help all Tennesseans have a fair chance of pursuing their American dream. We stand ready to help see these policies through that Tennesseans want and that lead to safer and stronger communities.”

The FIRST STEP Act, which the U.S. the House of Representatives already passed overwhelmingly, would create evidence-based risk and needs assessment tools that would be used to prepare incarcerated individuals to successfully reenter their communities as law-abiding individuals. The bill would also ban the shackling of pregnant inmates, allow individuals to earn good time credits of up to 54 days per year, allow outside programs into federal prisons to enhance rehabilitation and reentry, and require prisoners, based on their level of risk, to be placed in facilities within 500 driving miles of their primary residence.


Freedom Partners recently released a national poll showing that 70% of likely voters approve of the FIRST STEP Act, and that nearly half of them would have a negative view of Senate Republicans if they fail to pass the bill.

The FIRST STEP Act is Based on Successful Reforms Implemented in States Like Texas. In 2007, the Texas Legislature projected the state would need 17,000 new prison beds over the next five years. After implementing criminal justice reforms, including expanded drug courts and mental health programs, crime dropped to levels not seen since the 1960s. The state closed four prisons and has plans to close four more — and the state saved $3 billion in the process. (Mark Holden & Brooke Rollins, Austin-American Statesman, 2/9/18)

White House Council of Economic Advisers: “On average, programs that address the prisoner’s mental health or substance abuse problems may reduce the cost of crime by about $0.92 to $3.31 per taxpayer dollar spent on prison reform and long-run incarceration costs by $0.55 to $1.96, for a total return of $1.47 to $5.27 per taxpayer dollar.” (White House Council of Economic Advisers Report, 5/18/18)

President Trump on the FIRST STEP Act: “Get a bill to my desk. I will sign it, and it’s going to be strong, it’s going to be good, it’s going to be what everybody wants.” (President Trump, Remarks at the White House, 5/18/18)