03/26/2019
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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley praised Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) for his work to improve the First Step Act, bipartisan legislation to reform America’s criminal justice system. Senator Tillis worked with Chairman Grassley his Senate colleagues on changes that would build additional support for the bipartisan legislation.  The revised legislation further clarifies eligibility for earned time credits following successful completion of evidence-based recidivism reduction programs, and expands on the existing list of disqualifying offenses. The changes address points raised by some law enforcement groups and provides for additional transparency in the Bureau of Prisons’ risk assessment framework.

“Sen. Tillis has been instrumental in advancing bipartisan criminal justice reform. His continued engagement has helped to promote policy that reduces crime and recidivism, saves tax dollars, improves fairness in sentencing and supports law enforcement,” said Chairman Chuck Grassley. “I look forward to building on our work together to pass the First Step Act.”

“I want to thank Chairman Grassley for being willing to discuss changes to the First Step Act that would improve the bill and help build support among members of the Senate so we can pass historical criminal justice reform at the federal level,” said Senator Thom Tillis. “One of my proudest moments as Speaker of the House in North Carolina was passing the Justice Reinvestment Act, a landmark state law that implemented a number of commonsense, bipartisan reforms that resulted in reduced crime, fewer prisons, and lower recidivism rates in North Carolina. The First Step Act is our opportunity to replicate those successes across the country, and I am proud to work on this bipartisan compromise that has widespread support throughout the Senate and I will continue to work to get it across the finish line.”

The comprehensive package aims to reduce crime by helping low-risk inmates prepare to successfully rejoin society through participation in proven recidivism reduction and professional development programs.  It also improves fairness in prison sentences by recalibrating certain mandatory minimum sentences, granting greater discretion for judges in sentencing of low-level, nonviolent drug crimes and clarifying congressional intent on sentencing enhancements for certain crimes involving firearms. It also preserves the maximum potential sentences for violent and career criminals. The legislation also allows petitions for retroactive application of the Fair Sentencing Act to be considered on an individual basis to reduce sentence disparities between crack and powder cocaine offenses.

Senator Tillis has been a longtime advocate of criminal justice reform, recognizing that it can strike the balance between reducing crime and making our justice system more equitable, when done right. As North Carolina Speaker of the House in 2011, he spearheaded the passage of the Justice Reinvestment Act, sweeping criminal justice reform legislation. The law places an emphasis on rehabilitation and reducing the likelihood of returning to prison, requiring those incarcerated on felony charges to be supervised for 9 to 12 months following their release. The law has resulted in a reduction in North Carolina’s prison population and a significant, double-digit decrease in the recidivism rate. The N.C. Department of Public Safety estimates that the law has also saved hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars over the last several years.

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