Rare moment of bipartisanship as US Senate overwhelmingly vote for criminal justice reform

Rare moment of bipartisanship as US Senate overwhelmingly vote for criminal justice reform

There was a rare moment of bipartisanship in the US Congress last night as the Senate overwhelmingly passed the First Step Act - the first in what could potentially be a series of legislation that aims to overhaul the criminal justice system.

Having garnered support from law-and-order conservatives a well as progressive Democrats the bill passed the Senate 87-12.

"This will keep our communities safer, and provide hope and a second chance, to those who earn it," tweeted President Donald Trump.

"In addition to everything else, billions of dollars will be saved."

Chuck Grassley, the head Republican in the Senate Judiciary Committee praised the legislation - and added that it the work of Democrat whip Dick Durban helped ensure the significant victory.

The American Civil Liberties Union greeted it with cautious optimism

The major provisions of the bill, according to Vox are:

  • Enact the reforms of the Fair Sentencing Act 2010 retroactively. This eliminates the disparity between sentencing between crack cocaine and the powder version of the drug
  • Ease mandatory minimum sentences under federal law and the 'three strikes' rule, meaning three drug offences will not mean life imprisonment
  • Increases the cap on 'good time credits'. This means inmates released on good behaviour will get out sooner
  • Allow inmates to get 'earned time credits'. This will allow them be released early to halfway houses or home confinement and participate in educational programs

The bill must now get passed the House of Representatives and if it does, it is anticipated that Donald Trump will sign the First Step Act into law.

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