RELEASE: The Center for American Progress Supports the Senate Version of the FIRST STEP Act, But More Must Be Done to Fix the Criminal Justice System

Washington, D.C. — Earlier today, Ed Chung, the vice president for Criminal Justice Reform at the Center for American Progress, announced CAP’s support for the Senate version of the FIRST STEP Act in a column entitled “The Dilemma of Endorsing the FIRST STEP Act During the Trump Administration.” This comes after the Center for American Progress initially withheld its support for the FIRST STEP Act when the bill was passed by the House earlier this year.

In the column, Chung explains that the Senate version of the bill addresses many of CAP’s concerns with the House version. These include the inclusion of important sentencing reforms and necessary checks on the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Prisons when creating a risk assessment and implementing the anti-recidivism programming. However, Chung notes that the Senate version of the FIRST STEP Act still “falls significantly short of the transformation needed to fix the federal criminal justice system.”

“The FIRST STEP Act is exactly what its name says it is: a first step on the path to the true transformational criminal justice reform that our country so desperately needs,” said Chung. “While CAP supports the FIRST STEP Act, we believe it can be effective only if both President Donald Trump and Congress commit to ongoing actions that reverse the ‘tough on crime’ stance the administration has taken to date. That is why sentencing reforms that place limits on the types of sentences that federal prosecutors can pursue or allow judges to use greater discretion are so crucial.”

For the FIRST STEP Act to be effective, the following steps must be taken:

  • President Trump must nominate an attorney general who is committed to criminal justice reform and appoint a reform-minded BOP director who agrees with the goals of the FIRST STEP Act.
  • The administration must propose in its budget and Congress must appropriate the full $75 million authorized by the legislation to create and implement the anti-recidivism system and other provisions in the bill.
  • The Justice Department must administratively fix a transparency deficiency in the bill and make public on its website the BOP risk assessment tool, as well as the methods used to validate it.

For more information or to speak to an expert, contact Julia Cusick at jcusick@americanprogress.org or 202.495.3682.