Press Release

House of Representatives Joins Senate by Passing “First Step Act”

Criminal Justice Reform Bill Heads to Trump, Who Has Committed to Signing Bill Into Law
 
Drug Policy Alliance Statement: Bittersweet Compromise

Contact:
Michael Collins 404-539-6437
Jag Davies 212-613-8035

Today, the House of Representatives joined the Senate and passed the First Step Act, a bill to reform the federal prison system and reduce sentences for certain drug offenses. The bill now goes to President Trump, who has committed to signing the bill into law.
  
“This is a bittersweet moment,” said Michael Collins, director of national affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance. “The bill represents progress and we should celebrate the release of thousands of people serving disproportionately long sentences, but at the same time the bill leaves far too many people behind. It’s a tough compromise for us and we must keep fighting for much deeper systemic changes.”
 
The bill contains prison reform language as well as provisions that would reduce sentences for certain drug offenses, including:

  • Retroactivity for the Fair Sentencing Act (the 2010 law that reduced the crack/powder cocaine sentencing disparity), allowing the potential release of around 2,600 people
  • Expansion of the “safety valve” allowing judges more discretion to sentence beneath mandatory minimum sentences
  • Reform of the “three strikes” law, reducing the “second strike” mandatory minimum of 20 years to 15 years, and reducing the “third strike” mandatory minimum of life-in-prison to 25 years 
  • Eliminate “stacking” for firearm offenses, meaning that prosecutors cannot add sentencing enhancements to individuals who may possess a firearm while committing their first federal offense

“I know the horror of spending a dozen years behind bars for a low-level drug offense,” said Anthony Papa, manager of media relations at the Drug Policy Alliance, who was sentenced to 15-years-to-life under New York’s draconian Rockefeller Drug Laws. “This reform will be life-changing for the thousands of people who are able to come home, but we also must keep fighting for the hundreds of thousands who are left behind.”
 

Criminal Justice Reform