President Donald Trump on Wednesday announced his support for a bipartisan prison reform bill, called the FIRST Step Act.
“Today, I am thrilled to announce my support for this bipartisan bill that will make our communities safer and give former inmates a second chance at life after they have served their time,” Trump said during brief remarks in the Roosevelt Room.
Trump added that the White House pledge “to ‘Hire American’ includes those leaving prison and looking for a very fresh start — new job, new life.”
Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, who has taken on criminal justice reform efforts since joining the White House, was present during the President’s remarks. Also, there was fellow White House adviser and first daughter Ivanka Trump, faith leaders, law enforcement leaders and lawmakers supporting the legislation were also present.
“I’m waiting. I’ll be waiting with a pen and we will have done something that hasn’t been done in many, many years, and it’s the right thing to do,” Trump added.
The President also spoke about Alice Johnson, a first-time nonviolent drug offender whose sentence he commuted over the summer after the case was brought to his attention by reality television star Kim Kardashian.
“I’ll never forget the scene of her coming out of prison after 21 years and greeting her family and everybody was crying. Her sons, her grandsons, everybody was crying and hugging and holding each other. It was a beautiful thing to see, it was a very tough situation,” he said.
Supporters of the FIRST Step Act expect that Trump’s backing will help propel the prison and sentencing overhaul bill through Congress, a push White House officials hope to accomplish during the lame duck session of Congress.
Trump wavered on whether to throw his support behind the bill in recent months, but the sources said he was swayed to back the bill on Tuesday after meeting with Kushner.
The new legislation would eliminate “stacking” provisions that result in offenders serving consecutive sentences for crimes committed using firearms; shorten mandatory minimum sentences, including reverting life imprisonment to a 25-year minimum for those convicted under the “three strikes” provision; and expand the “drug safety valve” to reduce the number of nonviolent drug offenders receiving mandatory minimum sentences.
Proponents of the bill made several changes to it to win backing from law enforcement groups, including excluding individuals convicted of some fentanyl-related offenses from accessing good time prison credits and a compromise provision to modestly expand the definition of a serious violent crime.