Fix Our Federal Prison System: Pass the First Step Act

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In May, the House Judiciary Committee overwhelmingly passed the FIRST STEP Act, a bill that would start the long process of transforming federal prisons into places of rehabilitation. The provisions in the bill would expand life-changing classes for thousands of men and women in federal prison and prepare them to come home job-ready with the skills and support they need to succeed. Now we need to get it through the House floor because President Trump has agreed to sign this bill if Congress gets it to his desk.

Our federal prison populations are growing at an astonishing rate, taking up a larger and larger share of resources that would be better spent on treatment, education, housing, and other social services. Our prisons have become warehouses often leaving people more traumatized and with fewer opportunities than when they entered. 

The FIRST STEP Act will begin to ensure that people have the support they need to come home from prison job ready.  It will:

  • Ban the shackling of women during childbirth and provide sanitary napkins and tampons at no charge;
  • Give thousands of men and women an opportunity to earn their way home sooner (by fixing “Good Time Credits” retroactively);
  • Get people who have participated in life-changing programs out of federal prison earlier and into halfway homes or home confinement;
  • Require the Bureau of Prisons to place incarcerated people within 500 driving miles of their families;
  • Allow formerly incarcerated people to serve as volunteers and mentors;
  • Expand compassionate release, giving the elderly and terminally ill prisoners a pathway home.

The FIRST STEP Act has received support from some leading Democrats and Republicans. Reps. Keith Ellison and Tulsi Gabbard just joined as a co-sponsors, alongside Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Bob Goodlatte, two of the most powerful Republicans in the U.S. House.

There are also new oversight and accountability over Jeff Sessions and the federal Bureau of Prisons, all backed with an authorization of $250 million over five years.

#cut50 has joined more than 70 groups in support of this bill. People who work with men and women inside our prisons and jails across the country understand how transformative these changes would be for the men and women who are living in prison cells right now.

Let’s put partisan bickering aside and take a step in the right direction with the FIRST STEP Act. I hope you’ll join me and many others in reaching out to your Members of Congress, TODAY. It’s urgent that we let them know we are in strong support of these changes.

Appreciate you always,

Jessica Jackson Sloan