Engel Statement on House Passage of the "First Step Act"

Engel Statement on House Passage of the “First Step Act”

Congressman Eliot L. Engel issued the following statement on today’s passage in the House of the “First Step Act”:

“The aptly titled ‘First Step Act’ moves the ball forward on desperately needed criminal justice reform, though more needs to be done to fix the system long-term. Overall, this is the most significant legislation in a generation to reform many of the wrongs plaguing our criminal justice system.

“For too long our country has taken a ‘tough on crime’ position that has exploded our imprisonment rate to the highest in the world and disproportionately targeted communities of color. The ‘First Step Act’ reforms some of our most punitive federal sentencing laws, including mandatory minimum sentences, and retroactively reduces the crack cocaine sentencing disparity. The bill expands the ability of prisoners to use time credits and provides substance abuse treatment, access to education and job training – all critical to helping inmates return to their communities and reducing recidivism. It also bans the shackling of pregnant prisoners and ends federal solitary confinement of juveniles.

“While the ‘First Step Act’ represents real progress, the need for additional changes to the criminal justice system remains. More of the reforms in this bill should be applied retroactively, and time credits should be expanded to apply to more people. We also need to take steps to curb private prisons that profit from incarcerating people, something the Obama Administration attempted to do only to be reversed by the Trump Administration.

“I applaud my colleagues for passing this bipartisan legislation and I will continue to fight for meaningful reforms to address the needs of the individuals and communities that suffer under the current system.”