A bipartisan group of senators will attach a set of sentencing reforms to the “First Step Act” already pproved by the House. The additions include shortening three-strike drug penalties from life in prison to 25 years.
Criminal justice reform advocates say sentencing law changes will be included in legislation unveiled soon, triggering an intense lame-duck struggle over attaching penalty reductions to a White House-backed prison reform bill, reports the Washington Examiner. The First Step Act passed the House 360-59 vote this year without sentencing reforms, at the behest of Republican opponents. Reform advocates expect rapid legislative action after Tuesday’s elections and believe there will be enough votes to pass the expanded legislative package. A bipartisan group of senators has agreed to attach a set of sentencing reforms to the House bill.
The additions include shortening three-strike drug penalties from life in prison to 25 years, reducing two-strike drug penalties from 20 years to 15, allowing a firearm sentencing enhancement to run concurrently with the underlying penalty, and allowing retroactive sentencing for crack cocaine cases judged under tougher historical laws. “We are very excited about it. We think that the four reforms that are in the bill are ones that make sense,” said Mark Holden, general counsel of Koch Industries. Holden said the sentencing language will also expand a “safety valve” option for judges to use discretion. There also is wording to reduce concern about illegal immigrants’ benefiting from sentencing reform. Holden expects the White House, particularly presidential adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, to back the bill. Last month, President Trump said Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ opposition to reforms did not represent him. “If he doesn’t [support reform], then he gets overruled by me. Because I make the decision, he doesn’t,” Trump said.