On Dec. 21, President Donald Trump signed into law the FIRST STEP Act, which improves rehabilitation and re-entry opportunities for thousands of incarcerated men and women. Yet the landmark criminal justice reform bill had a difficult path to the president’s desk, despite an unprecedented amount of bipartisan support.
The Seminar Network has been a long-time supporter of policies to reform our failing criminal justice system. Various organizations and leaders, including Koch Industries Senior Vice President Mark Holden, have rallied support for reform policies at both ends of the political spectrum. Former Obama administration official and criminal justice reform advocate Van Jones, commenting on his work with The Seminar Network leaders, said, “it’s because there is a principled reason for them to be in the fight, a principled reason for us to be in the fight, and we’ve got to fight together.”
NBC tells the story of the FIRST STEP Act’s passage into law, highlighting the broad, bipartisan coalition that worked for years for much-needed criminal justice reform. The coalition, which included religious leaders, scholars, activists, and lawmakers from both sides of the aisle, was finally able to gain some traction when Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, got involved.
But it wasn’t until the bill first passed the House, 360-59, in May that coalition members truly thought success might be possible. “That’s a vote number [that] can’t be ignored,” Holden told NBC. “I then thought it had a chance in the Senate.”
President Trump expressed support for the bill in November, and, after heavy pressure from coalition members, the Senate passed the FIRST STEP Act, 87-12. The legislation was sent to the president’s desk on Dec. 18.
Read the full story of the FIRST STEP Act’s passage here.