November 28, 2018
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) announced that he has cosponsored the bipartisan First Step Act, which would improve fairness in sentencing of federal crimes, promote public safety and reduce recidivism. The bill was introduced by U.S. Senators Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), and combines prison reform proposals that overwhelmingly passed in the House of Representatives earlier this year with sentencing reform provisions from the broadly bipartisan Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, which Senator King cosponsored in July and was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this year. The legislation has been endorsed by the President, has strong bipartisan support in Congress, and is supported by a wide range of law enforcement organizations and criminal justice reform advocates.
“The First Step Act can help make our communities safer, help inmates become productive community members upon release from prison, and save taxpayer money – no wonder it has broad, bipartisan support from Congress, the White House, and from law enforcement and criminal justice reform advocates across the country,” said Senator King. “This bill is an important chance to work across the aisle and create a better criminal justice system for all Americans – let’s take this opportunity, and pass it swiftly."
The comprehensive package aims to reduce crime by helping low-risk inmates prepare to successfully rejoin society through participation in proven recidivism reduction and professional development programs. It also improves fairness in prison sentences by recalibrating certain mandatory minimum sentences, granting greater discretion for judges in sentencing of low-level, nonviolent drug crimes and clarifying congressional intent on sentencing enhancements for certain crimes involving firearms. It also preserves the maximum potential sentences for violent and career criminals. The legislation also allows petitions for retroactive application of the Fair Sentencing Act to be considered on an individual basis to reduce historical sentencing disparities. Under this legislation, any savings generated by the reforms would automatically be reinvested into law enforcement programs to further reduce crime and improve community safety.
The legislation currently has 24 bipartisan cosponsors – 12 Republicans, 11 Democrats, and Senator King – and is supported by a wide range of stakeholders from key law enforcement organizations to reform advocates, including the Fraternal Order of Police, National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, Cut50, Law Enforcement Leaders to Reduce Crime & Incarceration, National District Attorneys Association, and the International Association of Chiefs of Police.
Earlier this year, Senator King cosponsored the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, parts of which are included in this version of the First Step Act. In 2017, he cosponsored the Smarter Sentencing Reform Act, a bill to provide alternatives to mandatory minimums for non-violent drug offenses. Senator King has previously cosponsored the Second Chance Act Reauthorization, which funds programs to assist with successful prisoner reentry into society.