Congress Takes First Step on Prison Reform Bill

This week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the “First Step Act” for prison reform by a vote of 360-59. This bipartisan bill would set aside $250 million over five years to develop education, drug treatment, and job training programs. It also establishes earned-time credits for completing these programs and allows the offender to use the credits to serve the remaining days in a halfway house.

The bill, which is supported by the White House, will face difficulty in the Senate. Critics of the bill say the emphasis is exclusively on the back end of incarceration and that the bill doesn’t truly address the core causes of mass incarceration, such as prison sentences that are often too long, or the already high rate of incarceration. Advocates maintain that it will work to reduce the prison population. If it passes, the “First Step Act” would be the first major federal criminal justice reform in years.