Despite The FIRST STEP Act gaining traction and numerous votes in congress, there is a delay in the Senate that many are unsure of why it hasn’t ended yet.
The FIRST STEP Act is Popular, But Still Delayed?
With the prison reform bill, ‘The FIRST STEP Act’, prepared to reduce the number of people in prison, many are wondering what’s taking the Senate so long to vote on it. President Trump and senators are pressuring leadership to take advantage of passing this bill in the last few weeks of the legislative session.
Both Democrats and Republicans have are pushing for this bill’s promise of prison reform. However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell hasn’t scheduled a vote for the bill yet. Voting was previously postponed in response to George H.W. Bush’s Funeral.
Despite the delay, Trump has even tweeted in hope of a vote for the reform bill, in hopes of saving taxpayers money and keep communities safe.
Prison Reform: Does The FIRST STEP Act Truly Help?
Half of the adults in the US have an immediate family member who is or has been incarcerated. The tab for the nations criminal justice system is $270 billion a year, which costs taxpayers about $31,000 a year for the 2.2 million people in prison.
African-Americans are incarcerated at an alarming rate with most having long sentences for minor offenses, including the nonviolent ones. There need to be more programs to reduce recidivism and help felons start a better life once they reach the outside. Resources needed for these felons include jobs, education, and housing.
Advocates prefer that programs included in this bill give the opportunity for more money to be spent on drug rehab and vocational training. Focus on those programs would serve to keep people out of prison, improving their lives in the process. The executive director of the National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls, Andrea James, believes that The FIRST STEP Act, “needs to not focus on making prisons better but focus on the front end.”
Our prison system is made up of racism, inequality and a flaw that give the rich less time and fees to pay off. While this bill isn’t perfect, it can be the spark that lights the fuse to reduce prison time, treat felons like human beings and give them a fair chance upon release through preparation. Many reform activists want to focus more on stopping people from being locked up.
President of the NAACP, Derrick Johnson, believes this bill is putting focus on the US prison system’s tax strain and not any moral arguments against it.
Support for The FIRST STEP Act and Prison Reform
Senators Chuck Grassley from Iowa, and Dick Durbin from Illinois have been on a mission for the gathering of support of The FIRST STEP Act. The two worked together to create buzz for the bill at a panel held by The Washington Post Live Center. As of December 9th, 34 senators have signed the bill.
However, the bill cannot be closed until McConnell steps up and says its time to vote. Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey believes that if the bill was voted on today it would recieve over 80 votes. The effort was pushed even further when Trump and his son-in-law/advisor, Jared Kushner, said the bill would make the lives of US citizens safer. Kushner and Pence also met with GOP Senators to push the bill.
Why Voting on The FIRST STEP Act is Delayed
McConnell believes there are more important issues to address, such as passing a farm bill and approving judicial nominations and spending bills. There are also oppositions from Republican Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton who thinks the bill will let out a lot of “serious felons”.
He believes there is a loophole in the written bill that needs to be removed, and that it should not give violent offenders with a lengthy history off the hook. Others say rewording it won’t make a difference however, as they believe Cotton will not vote for it no matter how it’s written.
But if it ends up being delayed, next year, the Democratic-controlled House can reword it and change the bil, meaning it’s possible that waiting to make it more about the inmates and not about the tax break may be in the best interest. What do you think though? So should they wait? Or vote now?