A new prison reform bill overwhelmingly approved by the House is a solid victory for President Trump and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner.
The “First Step Act,” focused on helping ex-convicts rebuild their lives after their release from prison, passed with an overwhelming 360-59 vote on Tuesday, the New York Post reported.
Reps. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., and Doug Collins, R-Ga., who authored the bill, reportedly worked closely with Kushner, Trump’s senior adviser who was interested in reforms because of his father’s treatment when he was jailed in 2005.
“President Trump promised to fight for the forgotten men and women of this country — and that includes those in prison,” Kushner wrote in the Wall Street Journal last month.
“America is a nation that believes in the power of redemption,” Trump said Friday, speaking at a prison reform summit at the White House, according to Fox News. “America is a nation that believes in second chances, and third chances, in some cases. And, I don’t know, I guess even fourth chances.”
The act provides $250 million over five years to expand programs while supporting those that reduce relapses by criminals, and encourage good behavior. Prisoners would also be required to be held within 500 miles from their relatives and could be allowed to spend more of their sentences in a halfway house or home confinement. They would also have a better chance to earn GED diplomas as well as get mental health and substance abuse help.
“These are individuals who are in the system right now without hope, without opportunity, without a meaningful chance at transforming themselves,” Jeffries told his colleagues on the House floor. “And the First Step Act will provide that. … Why would we possibly refuse that?”
According to the New York Post:
The bill earned diverse support from conservative groups – like the Charles Koch Institute and the Faith and Freedom Coalition – as well as progressive leaders like commentator Van Jones and his Dream Corps’ #cut50 initiative. But the ACLU and NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund opposed the bill, arguing it doesn’t go far enough.
Others were critical as well, if only because they oppose anyone working with the Trump administration. ShareBlue media’s Oliver Willis denounced Jones – who has been openly critical of the president – accusing the CNN analyst of aiding racism.
Aiding Donald Trump is aiding racism. And Van Jones is aiding Trump (even worse he did a dog n pony show for Ivanka, Jared, and Rick Perry). It was gross and disgusting. https://t.co/RloxxfFEEv
— Oliver Willis (@owillis) May 23, 2018
New York Rep. Jerrold Nadler was also critical of the bill.
“On principle, I cannot support legislation which fails to address the larger issues of sentencing reform,” the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee said. “Though this bill makes some modest improvements in areas related to our prisons, it actually does more harm by cementing into our system new areas of racial biases and disadvantage that make worse a criminal justice system desperately in need of reform.”
The bill now moves to the Senate where it faces some tough opposition. Senate Judiciary Committee Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, has warned that any prison legislation must be tied to sentencing reforms to get his support.