Republicans like the reform bill less each time they see it. They should hold off on a vote this year.
‘First, do no harm” is a well-known motto of medical professionals. If only our politicians followed it as well.
Democrats and Republicans in Congress are eager to pass something this year under the banner of “criminal-justice reform.” But bipartisan support isn’t an automatic Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval. Members on both sides of the aisle can, and sometimes do, team up to pass bad bills, and the so-called First Step Act is a good example. The more we learn about it, the worse it looks.
By a vote of 360-59 in May, the House passed a version of the legislation designed to curb recidivism by helping inmates return to society. It provides for more rehabilitation programs and vocational training, for example. Prison conditions also would improve under the bill: Inmates would be placed in facilities located closer to their families, and women would no longer be shackled during childbirth. So far, so good.
But once the First Step Act moved to the upper chamber for consideration, what had been a federal prison-reform measure morphed into a sentencing-reduction bill. For starters, the Senate bill eliminates mandatory life-without-parole penalties for repeat drug offenders and reduces mandatory-minimum sentences for other serious drug offenses.
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