A White House-backed prison reform bill advanced in the House after winning bipartisan support in a 25-5 House Judiciary Committee vote, reported The Hill.
The bill, called the First Step Act, seeks to offer more funding for prison programs and incentivize prisoners to complete the programs in an attempt to reduce the likelihood of inmates committing new crimes once released from prison.
Democrats and liberal groups that had pressed for more significant criminal justice reforms such as reductions to mandatory minimum sentences have been divided over the bill.
Reps. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) and Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) spent much of the past week in negotiations after committee Democrats pushed back against a number of conservative provisions in the legislation.
After the committee vote, Collins said he’s confident there’s enough Democratic support to get the bill through the House and the Senate.
“They have their own process to go through. There may be some issues that we can then work on later, but I do feel this is one of the pieces of legislation that will be signed into law this year,” he said.
In a nod to Democrats, the bill approved in committee no longer includes language that would have allowed certain law enforcement officials and correctional officers to carry a concealed firearm in all 50 states.
And in another effort to win over Democratic supporters, the bill does include language creating more opportunities for prisoners to earn time credits by completing prison programs. They can then use those credits to serve the remaining days of their sentence in a halfway house or home confinement.
The bill, which authorizes $50 million a year for five years for the Bureau of Prisons to spend on programs like job training and education that reduce recidivism, clarifies current law to allow prisoners up to 54 days of credit for good behavior annually. The law was previously interpreted as only allowing prisoners to earn 47 days a year.
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