Will it fly?
That is certainly the question most relevant to considerations surrounding the so-called First Step Act, which is a Senate bill focused on federal criminal sentencing reform that actively seeks President Trump’s embrace.
Optimally, proponents would like to see the chief executive’s strong endorsement of bipartisan reform measures translate to First Step’s imminent enactment into law. There is strong momentum behind the bill, and of a noted bipartisan tinge.
One reform advocate calls the Senate effort “groundbreaking.” In terms of a truly viable opportunity to implement material sentencing and prison changes, she points to the First Step legislation as “the clearest path forward that we have had in years.”
That path has been routinely blocked for more than a generation by seeming implacable hardline policies enacted pursuant to the now largely discredited War on Crime and attendant War on Drugs. The default approach toward legions of federal offenders over decades has simply been to sentence them to lengthy prison terms.
That approach has proven deficient, especially for its misapplication concerning nonviolent and often first-time offenders charged with arguably minor drug offenses. The “lock-‘em-up-and-throw-away-the-keys” policies referenced in one recent national report has led to insuperably large prison populations, break-the-bank taxpayer outlays to the criminal justice system and a high recidivism rate for released offenders.
The call for reform has grown increasingly loud and broad-based in recent years. First Step is a clear manifestation of that and clear evidence that change is sought on both sides of the political aisle.
The would-be law’s particulars are multiple and diverse. Among other things, they centrally call for restored judicial discretion over sentencing outcomes and shorter prison terms for many drug offenders.
The above-cited New York Times article duly notes that, while the president’s support “is by no means guaranteed,” his endorsement would be broadly welcomed on Capitol Hill and by legions of reform-hungry Americans.