Washington, DC, United States (VOA) – The U.S. Senate overwhelmingly approved legislation to decrease America’s substantial prison population by lowering some mandatory federal sentences, giving inmates added opportunities to earn reductions in jail time, and encouraging prisoners to better themselves so they are less likely to return to crime upon release.
Passing 87-12, the First Step Act was hailed by proponents as a long-overdue retooling of the federal criminal justice system, an effort that drew resounding support from both Republican and Democratic lawmakers as well as President Donald Trump.
“Congratulations to the Senate on the bipartisan passing of a historic Criminal Justice Reform Bill,” Trump tweeted shortly after the vote. “I look forward to signing this into law!”
“The bill makes smart changes to our criminal justice system in ways that will make it fairer, more humane, and more just,” Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer of New York said.
“This legislation is proof that we can be tough on crime and more compassionate to those who deserve a second chance,” Mississippi Republican Roger Wicker said in a statement.
The bill retroactively ends the discrepancy in federal sentences for drug offenses involving crack and the powder form of cocaine, which would reduce jail time for thousands of prisoners convicted of crack offenses.
The legislation also reduces some mandatory sentences, gives federal judges more flexibility to make exceptions to mandatory prison terms, and allow inmates to earn greater sentence reductions through good behavior and vocational training.
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