H.R. 5682 Prison Reform Bill 'First Step' in Reducing Recidivism Rates for Returning Citizens
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Prison Fellowship®, the nation's largest Christian nonprofit serving prisoners, former prisoners, and their families, and a leading advocate for criminal justice reform, applauded the strong, bipartisan passage of the FIRST STEP Act (H.R. 5682) on Tuesday in the U.S. House of Representatives by a vote of 360 to 59.
The bipartisan FIRST STEP Act, sponsored by Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., and Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., would improve the likelihood that men and women in federal prison will leave better prepared to become productive citizens. Through individualized risk assessments and expansion of recidivism-reducing programs for all federal prisoners, community safety will be protected.
"With the passage of the FIRST STEP Act, this meaningful, moral, and effective prison reform can now begin to address the numerous problems of our current prison system, which fails too often," said Craig DeRoche, Senior Vice President of Advocacy and Public Reform at Prison Fellowship. "Because 95 percent of those currently incarcerated will be released and return to their communities, this needed legislation will address safety concerns while helping these men and women become more productive and better citizens while fewer people return to crime. It's now our prayer the U.S. Senate will take quick action on the FIRST STEP Act and send it to the President's desk to become law."
Prison Fellowship spearheaded a letter of support, along with 35 other organizations, for the passage of the FIRST STEP Act.
The FIRST STEP Act uses an evidence-based approach to drive down the recidivism rate among federal prisoners. It requires the Department of Justice (DOJ) to develop and apply a Risk and Needs Assessment System (RNAS) to identify a prisoner's risk and assign them to appropriate evidence-based programming. In detail, it provides the following:
- RISK AND NEEDS ASSESSMENT SYSTEM
Directs the DOJ to develop and implement an RNAS—modeled after similar actuarial-based systems that have already been successfully used in state corrections—for use at intake and throughout a prisoner's incarceration. The RNAS would determine a prisoner's risk of reoffending, the driving forces behind that risk, and the programs that will have the most impact toward reducing that risk.
- EVIDENCE-BASED PROGRAMING
Directs the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to use determinations made by the RNAS to place prisoners in effective, evidence-based recidivism reduction programs such as substance abuse treatment, job skills training, mental health treatment, and GED classes. The legislation also directs the BOP to partner with nonprofit and private organizations to help provide programming.
- PRE-RELEASE CUSTODY INCENTIVES
Incentivizes prisoners to meaningfully participate in programming by permitting them to earn time credits toward pre-release custody. Minimal- and low-risk prisoners, who earn pre-release custody credits through the successful completion of such programs and activities, would then be able serve out the end of their sentence at one of the BOP's Residential Reentry Centers, or on monitored home confinement.