Senate overwhelmingly passes First Step Act, Pennsylvania Rep. weighs in

Cherri Gregg
December 19, 2018 - 10:06 pm
Prison cell

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) -- The United States Senate overwhelmingly passed the First Step Act, the most sweeping bipartisan criminal justice reform bill in decades. The US House will likely pass it and President Donald Trump says he'll sign it

The Formerly Incarcerated Reenter Society Transformed Safely Transition Every Person Act, or FIRST STEP Act, will clear the way for thousands of federal inmates to petition for reduce sentences and ultimately return to society.

"There's a whole lot left to be done, but this makes it clear that criminal justice reform is a bipartisan issue," said Pennsylvania State Rep. Jordan Harris.

He has been a leader in Harrisburg, passing Clean Slate legislation in Pennsylvania. He says First Step will end the crack versus powder cocaine discrepancy, give credit for good behavior, and make easier for inmates to be placed closer to family, among other changes.  

"I think you'll see more folks at a state level willing to do the work that’s necessary to make bipartisan changes," he said.

In a rare move siding with President Donald Trump the ACLU even applauded the effort.

READ: Senate overwhelmingly passes criminal justice overhaul

"There have been clear and distinct lines that have been drawn," said Reuben Jones.

Jones runs the Philadelphia Campaign to end mass incarceration for Just Leadership USA.

He says they are urging Congress to vote NO to First Step-fearing implementation of racially biased risk assessment tools to determine who gets out and who stays in prison.

"All we are doing is creating electronic shackles that will be put on black and brown people,” he said.

If Congress passes First Step it could be signed into law before the end of the year.