I write to you today to urge you to support S. 3649, the revised First Step Act.
As a person of faith, committed to justice, I believe the time is now to begin reforming our broken criminal justice system and address mass incarceration.
The First Step Act, while imperfect, will begin a process of reform by:
- Expanding judicial discretion in determining who qualifies for certain mandatory minimum sentences;
- Retroactively applying the Fair Sentencing Act, which reduced the 100-1 sentencing disparity between crack vs. powder cocaine offenses;
- Providing de-escalation training to correctional officers;
- Requiring that inmates be held in a facility no more than 500 miles from their residency;
- Mandating that pregnant women not be restrained while in custody;
- Providing additional funding for rehabilitative programming in prisons.
Pope Francis has reminded us that “God is in everyone’s life. Even if the life of a person has been a disaster, even if it is destroyed by vices, drugs or anything else.”
I believe that passing the revised First Step Act, while imperfect and only the beginning, would set the United States on a path toward a criminal justice system that is less punitive and more focused on healing, restoration, and hope for all.