Criminal justice reform is all the rage these days, it seems. Much of that focuses on so-called “reform” of cash bail – a big misnomer as we’re finding out – but there are other strides being made elsewhere that will have more direct, lasting, and meaningful impacts.
The new “First Step Act” developed by a bipartisan committee that includes President Trump’s son-in-law and top advisor Jared Kushner, is getting major traction across the board, including from Trump himself.
The bill is designed to improve rehabilitation programs for form prisoners and would also give judges far more latitude in determining sentencing for nonviolent offenses, especially for drug offenders, who are increasingly seen as the least harmful.
Of the legislation, Trump noted that it would “make our communities safer and give former inmates a second chance at life after they have served their time.” The bill has support from a variety of those on Congress, on both sides of the aisle. It has been lauded specifically by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin, D-Illinois.
Despite wide bipartisan efforts, some remain concerned that the Senate proposal doesn’t go nearly far enough, and that it specifically falls short on issues of racial profiling and mass incarceration. Noted Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Virgina, “There’s a tendency around here to introduce a bill with a title, discuss the title and then go to the press conference.”
Federal Prisoners Closer to Home
The bill also makes what some would call “common sense” measures, such as placing federal prisoners in facilities closer to their homes so friends and relatives can visit more easily, allowing for more home confinement for lower-level offenders, and expand prison employment programs to give inmates a chance to be productive and engage in meaningful activities.
Maryland’s Role in Criminal Justice Reform
On the homefront, Rep. Ben Cardin from Maryland is in favor of what’s been going on, noting, “I think there’s leadership that could bring about some change. We need to do it. We’re losing too many of our people. It’s ridiculous.”