May 9, 2018

WASHINGTON — The House Judiciary Committee advanced the FIRST STEP Act for a floor vote today without critically needed sentencing reform. Without sentencing reform legislation, the FIRST STEP Act will not result in meaningful changes that the federal criminal justice system desperately needs or changes to the systemic problems in the federal prison system.

The American Civil Liberties Union joined 75 civil rights organizations, including the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund and The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, to oppose the bill.

Jesselyn McCurdy, deputy director of the Washington Legislative Office at the ACLU, had the following reaction:

“Supporters of the legislation have used the phrase ‘something is better than nothing.’ But it is concerning that the criteria for criminal justice reform seems to no longer be that it addresses the very real problems in the federal system, but rather more about appearing as if something is being accomplished. No meaningful reform to our criminal justice system can be made without addressing how people enter prison and how they can rebuild their lives after — and this legislation does neither.

“The true cost of this country’s addiction to incarceration is measured in human lives — specifically the generations of young Black and Latino men who serve long prison sentences, and are lost to their families and communities for decades.

“The ACLU joins civil rights advocates across the country in calling on members of Congress to make significant changes to the bill before it receives a vote on the House floor. If these issues are not addressed, they should vote ‘no.’”

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