U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), along with a bipartisan group of House and Senate members, introduced the FIRST STEP Act, a prison reform bill aimed at reducing recidivism rates and rehabilitating low-risk offenders.
“The FIRST STEP Act is modeled after successful reforms that states like Texas have implemented to rehabilitate low-risk offenders and prepare them to reenter society,” Sen. Cornyn said. “This legislation will help shut the revolving door of recidivism to save taxpayer dollars and reduce crime. I look forward to working with my colleagues to move these necessary reforms forward on the federal level.”
This legislation mirrors Sen. Cornyn’s CORRECTIONS Act which was modeled after successful state-level reforms like those in Texas. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) cosponsored the FIRST STEP Act in the Senate, and Congressmen Doug Collins (R-GA) and Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) introduced companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.
- Risk Assessment: The bill requires the Department of Justice to develop risk assessment tools that will assess the recidivism risk of all eligible offenders.
- Reducing Prison Spending: The bill focuses limited Bureau of Prison resources on those most likely to commit future crimes and shifts lower-risk inmates to less restrictive conditions, reducing prison costs and freeing up resources for law enforcement.
- Expanded Recidivism-Reduction Programming: The bill requires the Bureau of Prisons to provide evidence-based recidivism reduction programming to all eligible offenders.
- Partnerships with Faith-Based and Community-Based Organizations: To promote efficient and effective recidivism reduction programming, the Bureau of Prisons must partner with private organizations, including non-profits, to enhance existing efforts.
- Credit toward Prerelease Custody: To incentivize inmates to reduce their risk profile, the bill allows eligible inmates who successfully complete recidivism reduction programs to earn credit toward time in pre-release custody, but excludes serious violent criminals.
- Improving Prisoner Reentry: The bill requires the federal probation office to begin planning for eligible offenders’ reentry at the beginning of the inmate’s sentence and requires the Justice Department to implement reentry pilot projects across the country.
- Correctional Officer Self-Protection Provision: The bill requires the warden of every federal prison facility to provide a secure storage facility for guards to secure firearms.
Additionally, the revised legislation also will:
- Increase the amount of “good time” credits for good behavior in prison.
- Limit the use of restraints on pregnant prisoners.
- Improve audits to reduce or eliminate prison rape.
- Increase the ability of Federal Prison Industries to sell products to private non-profit organizations.
- Requires prison guards to receive de-escalation training.
Senator John Cornyn, a Republican from Texas, is a member of the Senate Finance, Intelligence, and Judiciary Committees.