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On behalf of FreedomWorks activists nationwide, I urge you to contact your representative and ask him or her to vote YES on the FIRST STEP Act, H.R. 5682, introduced by Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.). This bill would implement evidence-based recidivism reduction programming in prisons for every federal prisoner based on his or her individual needs. It would provide a modest incentive structure to eligible prisoners to earn time credits for successfully completing this programming and showing concrete progress toward reducing their risk of recidivism.
Prison reform, and criminal justice reform more broadly, have been tried and proven effective at the state level since the “war on drugs” laws of the 1990s have proven ineffective. The lower recidivism rates resulting from these policies enhance public safety, while simultaneously saving taxpayer dollars and returning dignity and sense of worth to all Americans. This movement has been largely led by traditionally conservative states with similarly conservative governors, such as Texas, Georgia, and South Carolina and in more recent years Oklahoma, Missouri, and Kentucky.
Realizing the merits of these reforms, President Trump endorsed prison reform in his State of the Union Address in January, saying, “As America regains its strength, this opportunity must be extended to all citizens. That is why this year we will embark on reforming our prisons to help former inmates who have served their time get a second chance.”
Now that there is a legislative vehicle for prison reform that has moved to the forefront and gathered broad bipartisan support, the White House hosted an event last Friday specifically to give more momentum to this movement. “As we speak, legislation is working through Congress to reform our federal prisons,” President Trump said. “My administration strongly supports these efforts, and I urge the House and Senate to get together -- and there are a lot of senators, a lot of Congress people that want to get this passed -- to work out their differences.”
Despite efforts from certain members of the Senate — namely Sens. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) — to tamper with the vote in the House, the strong 25-5 bipartisan vote in the House Judiciary Committee reflects the good faith efforts of the sponsors to address concerns and work out their differences, as the president noted.
It is with great excitement that FreedomWorks and other groups invested in prison reform see the FIRST STEP Act on the legislative calendar for this week and are hopeful that this consensus legislation can find support from all sides of the Republican and the Democratic conferences alike. Such modest reforms can offer such great benefits to all American citizens, by incentivizing those currently incarcerated to return to society with those law-abiding and become the latter. This enhances public safety, saves taxpayer dollars by reducing incarceration, and gives a second chance at productive citizenship to all Americans.
As President Trump said on Friday, “Prison reform is an issue that unites people across the political spectrum. It’s an amazing thing. Our whole nation benefits if former inmates are able to reenter society as productive, law-abiding citizens.” We could not agree more.
FreedomWorks will count the vote for the FIRST STEP Act, H.R. 5682, on our 2018 Congressional Scorecard. The scorecard is used to determine eligibility for the FreedomFighter Award, which recognizes Members of the House and Senate who consistently vote to support economic freedom and individual liberty.
Adam Brandon President, FreedomWorks