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House Sends FIRST STEP Act – Co-Sponsored by Chairman Walker and Chairman Richmond – to the President's Desk

December 20, 2018
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Representative Mark Walker (R-N.C.), chairman of the Republican Study Committee, and U.S. Representative Cedric Richmond (D-La.), chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, today released the following statement after the passage of S. 756, the First Step Act, the most substantial reforms to federal prison and sentencing laws in decades, in a bipartisan 358-36 vote:

"In April, we said 'passing significant reforms to our criminal justice system could bring relief to families and communities in every state, district and territory.' Today, we took a step – a first step – in that direction. We commend House and Senate Leadership for answering the call to consider and pass positive reforms to our criminal justice system this year.

"Looking forward, we must continue to restore families, heal communities, and help people find redemption – rather than condemnation – through additional reforms. Hopefully, with the success of the First Step Act, we have demonstrated the bipartisan support for these continued efforts.”

In April, Walker and Richmond penned an op-ed for The Hill calling on congressional leadership – of both parties – to dedicate the resources and afford criminal justice reform the national attention it deserves. The following month, the House passed the original version of the First Step Act.

Last week, the Senate passed the legislation with revisions. The now House-passed revised legislation is headed to President Trump's desk for signature.

You can read the full text of the legislation here.

As reported by Axios, the First Step Act will:

  • Send up to 4,000 prisoners home by increasing the amount of time inmates can cut off of their sentences due to good behavior.
  • Allow more male and female inmates to serve time in house arrest or halfway homes instead of prison cells, with exceptions for high-risk inmates.
  • Require that prisoners be placed within 500 miles of family.
  • Outlaw shackling during child birth.
  • Mandate the provision of sanitary napkins and tampons to female inmates.
  • Reduce the mandatory penalty from life to 25 years for a third conviction of certain drug offenses, and from 25 to 15 years for a second conviction.
  • Prohibit the doubling up, or "stacking," of mandatory sentences for certain gun and drug offenses.
  • Give judges more discretion in giving less than the mandatory minimum for certain low-level crimes.
  • Make the 2010 Fair Sentencing Act retroactive, which changed sentencing guidelines to treat offenses involving crack and powder cocaine equally. This could impact nearly 2,600 federal inmates, according to the Marshall Project.