STATEMENT: CAP’s Neera Tanden: FIRST STEP Act Is a ‘Repudiation of the So-Called Tough-on-Crime Philosophy’

Washington, D.C. — Today, President Donald Trump signed the FIRST STEP Act into law, following passage in the Senate and House with overwhelming bipartisan support. The bill would reform federal sentencing laws by allowing judges to sentence below mandatory minimums for a larger number of people and retroactively apply the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, which reduced disparities in sentencing for crack and powder cocaine offenses. The legislation also establishes a re-entry programming system in the federal Bureau of Prisons to provide those incarcerated with skills and education to succeed when they return to their communities after serving their sentence. Neera Tanden, president and CEO of the Center for American Progress, released the following statement:

The Center for American Progress applauds the enactment of the FIRST STEP Act, an important milestone on the path toward true comprehensive criminal justice system reform. This legislation will help a substantial number of people who have been incarcerated for too long and have not received nearly enough support to succeed when they return to their communities and families. Passage of the FIRST STEP Act shows the American people that Washington can actually enact laws that help people in tangible ways if those in leadership would start prioritizing people over politics.

The real work, however, begins now to ensure that the administration faithfully carries out its duties under this statute. This means ensuring that the next attorney general and director of the Bureau of Prisons are committed to the goals of the legislation. It continues with making sure the administration requests and Congress appropriates enough resources to make the prison reforms a reality. And it means that our country must commit to abandoning the policies of mass incarceration that have damaged our communities—especially people of color and other marginalized groups—for decades.

Make no mistake: The FIRST STEP Act is a repudiation of the so-called tough-on-crime philosophy that has dictated federal criminal justice policies for far too long. And CAP is proud to have worked closely over the years with members of Congress and stakeholders across the ideological spectrum to see this bill become law.

For more information or to speak to an expert, contact Julia Cusick at  or 202-495-3682.