A major criminal justice reform bill is poised to become law after the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly voted in its favor Thursday. The First Step Act, passed in the Senate earlier this week with an 87-12 vote, would roll back sentences for federal prisoners, including mandatory life terms for third-time offenders and mandatory sentences for nonviolent drug users. The bill is now heading to the desk of President Trump, who has pledged to sign it into law. The bill only affects federal prisoners, who make up less than 10 percent of the more than 2 million U.S. prisoners. It has been endorsed by a wide range of supporters across the political spectrum, from the American Civil Liberties Union to the conservative Koch brothers. But the bill explicitly excludes immigrants and has been criticized by groups such as the Movement for Black Lives, a coalition of more than 150 black-led organizations, for encouraging profiteering and making “false promises” about bringing black prisoners home. We speak with Van Jones, president and co-founder of #cut50, a national bipartisan initiative to reduce the U.S.’s incarcerated population by 50 percent over the next 10 years. We also speak with Jessica Jackson Sloan, a human rights attorney and co-founder and national director of #cut50.
The bill addresses only federal prisoners who make up only 10% of all prisoners and it specifically excludes immigrants.