President Trump held a celebratory event at the White House Monday to champion the bipartisan criminal justice reform bill — the First Step Act, while announcing there will be a “Second Step Act,” that will focus on successful reentry and reduced unemployment for those with past criminal records.
“Today I’m announcing that the Second Step Act will be focused on successful reentry and reduce unemployment for Americans with past criminal records and that’s what we’re starting right away,” Trump said at the 2019 Prison Reform Summit in the East Room. “Those with criminal records still face many barriers toward gainful employment. Americans with criminal records are unemployed at rates up to five times the national average. Our goal is to cut the rate to single digits in five years.”
Trump was joined on stage with a handful of former prisoners who have been helped through the First Step Act. During the ceremony event, Trump asked each of them to recount their experiences.
“Two months ago, I was in a prison cell. And I’m in the White House,” former inmate Gregory Allen said. “That’s going to tell you to make America great again.”
The First Step Act, a bipartisan piece of legislation that looks to reform the criminal justice system, was signed into law in December. The act is one of the few major legislative accomplishment his administration has achieved thus far, and garnered praise from the left and the right for its aims. It passed the House 358-36 and the Senate by an 87-12 vote.
The act reverses sentencing provisions that were created in 1994 during the Clinton administration. It aims to give prisoners who exhibit good behavior to shorten their sentences, particularly for nonviolent drug offenses. It also attempts to curb recidivism, meaning the rate at which convicted individuals engage in further criminal activity upon release, as well as reducing prison overcrowding by easing mandatory minimums for nonviolent drug offenders, and expanding job training and programs for prisoners.
“Finally, the law rolls back provisions of the 1994 Clinton crime law that was so devastating to so many, and that disproportionately impacted the African American community,” Trump said. “Nobody believes how much, and now they understand it. In less than four months more than 500 people with unfair sentences have been released from prison and are free to begin a new life.”
Trump added that part of the First Step Act that over tens of thousands of inmates have already been enrolled in substance treatment programs.
“I’m thrilled to report that since I’ve signed the First Step Act, more than 16,000 inmates have already enrolled in drug treatment programs,” Trump told the crowd. “And my administration intends to fully fund and implement this historic law.”
Since becoming into law, so far more than 500 inmates have been released. It only affects about 180,000 federal inmates, less than 10 percent of the country’s entire prison population. According to the U.S. Sentencing Commission, by the end of the year, about 7,000 inmates could be released under this new law.
The president pointed out how the First Step Act demonstrates the nation’s willingness to offer redemption.
“As president, I pledged to work with both parties for the good of the whole nation,” Trump said. “Slowly but surely, it’s all happening.”