President Donald Trump signed into law on Friday what proponents say is the most comprehensive federal prison reform bill in decades.
Trump signed the bipartisan, evangelical-backed FIRST STEP Act at the Oval Office of the White House joined by criminal justice reform advocates, faith leaders, ex-offenders and lawmakers who’ve pushed hard to pass the bill before the close of the current Congress.
According to the White House, the bill “paves a new pathway for our federal justice system” and reforms decades of policies that “have failed Americans.”
White House officials noted that approximately 77 percent of state inmates and 38 percent of federal inmates are rearrested within five years of their release.
Trump admitted that he did “start off a little bit on the negative side” when it came to his opinion of the FIRST STEP Act but was persuaded over the last few weeks by speaking to “people really involved” and by looking at the successes that states like Texas, Kentucky, Georgia and others that are “known for being tough on crime” have had passing similar reforms.
“Criminal justice reform — everybody said it couldn’t be done,” Trump said at the signing ceremony. “They said that the conservatives won’t approve it and the liberals won’t approve it. They said nobody is going to approve it, everybody is going to be against it. It has been many years, numerous decades and nobody came close.”
He thanked the individuals in the room for their efforts in pushing for the legislation, including his daughter, Ivanka, and son-in-law Jared Kushner, who received an applause from the advocates in the room for their efforts within the White House. He also thanked Democrat lawmakers Sens. Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, among other congressional leaders, for their support of the bill.
“This was incredible bipartisan support,” Trump said. “Everybody worked so hard on this. Behind me is a cross section of everybody in our country. We have everybody here. … We had everybody wanting this. We had a few people that didn’t and that’s OK. It is impossible to get 100 percent.”
The bill passed in the Senate last week by a margin of 87–12, a tally that the president called “unheard of.” In the House, the bill passed this week by a vote of 358–36.
“You look at this vote, 358–36, you don’t have votes like that,” he added, before noting that border security isn’t getting the same support.
Last month when announcing his support for the bill, Trump assured that the bill was only a “first step” but noted that it’s a “big first step.” He said it will make communities safer and “give former inmates a second chance at life after they have served their time.”
“Thanks to our booming economy, they all now have a chance at more opportunities than they have ever had before,” Trump said at the time, stating that the job market is the “best it’s been in over 50 years.”
“This is true. Our economy is so strong that when people are getting out of jail they are actually able to find jobs,” the president added. “I have three instances of companies that hire people coming out of prisons. And they are so thrilled by the performance of these people. Now they are doing it more and more and more.”
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Samuel Smith