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Weekly Column

Building Safer Communities

While negotiations to fully fund the government unfortunately remain underway in the Senate, I am pleased to report that lawmakers in both chambers of Congress did recently complete work on bipartisan legislation to improve the federal justice system. Already signed into law by the president and focused on building safer communities, the FIRST STEP Act ushers in common sense solutions to discourage repeat criminal offenders and ensure fair sentencing.

One of the key reforms included in the comprehensive law is aimed at identifying which federal prisoners might be capable and deserving of a second chance. This is accomplished through a new system to assess the risk and needs of each federal prisoner and help set them on the fairest and most appropriate rehabilitation path forward. To be sure, this does not mean that dangerous and violent criminals are able to walk free or serve less time for their crimes. Rather, the FIRST STEP Act seeks to keep prisoners from ending up behind bars again for the same crimes after returning to society. Further, it seeks to equip and encourage those who want to change while they serve their time.

With the goal of reducing recidivism, the legislation reauthorizes several programs from the Second Chance Act of 2007. This includes educational and job training programs with proven results. The legislation also encourages prisoner participation in some faith-based programs.

 

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