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Criminal justice reform is a vital issue. Why? The U.S. makes up just four percent of the world’s population but is home to over 22% of the world’s prison population. That’s a lot of people incarcerated. In fact, roughly 650,000 of these folks are released from prison each year. Yet, sadly, statistics show that about two-thirds of them will be rearrested within three years of their release. This is partly owed to a lack of evidence-based rehabilitative programming in prisons.
Due to this alarmingly high rate of recidivism, there now is growing support among law enforcement and lawmakers for one particular piece of criminal justice reform legislation – the FIRST STEP Act.
This bipartisan legislation would reduce crime by helping keep people from reoffending, and ensure that people who paid their debt to society can reenter their communities as productive, law-abiding individuals. This last point is incredibly important because if people have the tools, treatment, and skills needed to succeed in life, they are much less likely to reoffend and wind up back behind bars. That’s a win for them and their families, and for communities and law enforcement who end up safer as a result.
The bill would also allow judges to issue more proportional sentences that hold people accountable for their mistakes without denying those who aren’t a public safety risk of a much-needed second chance.
Last Friday, the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), the largest law enforcement labor organization in the country endorsed this legislation, saying it “will make our streets and neighborhoods safer.” FOP went on to say the bill would “improve the ability of our criminal justice system to effectively rehabilitate offenders.” After all, that should be the end goal of our criminal justice system – rehabilitating offenders and allowing them to become productive, crime-free members of society. That’s a view supported by 70 percent of voters nationwide.
On Tuesday, Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) wrote a piece for Fox News titled, “A Conservative Case for Criminal Justice Reform.” In this op-ed, Sen. Lee argued the “much-needed prison reform measures” in the FIRST STEP Act “would reduce recidivism.” Ensuring people do not reoffend after leaving prison is a crucial component of reforming our criminal justice system.
Today, President Donald Trump pledged his full support for this bipartisan legislation that will reduce crime and make our federal sentencing laws more just and effective.