News Releases

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Isakson Votes for Reform of Criminal Justice, Prison System

Highlights success of similar justice reform in Georgia

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., today voted for bipartisan legislation to reform the criminal justice system in the United States and make our communities safer. The First Step Act of 2018 passed the Senate by a vote of 87-12. The legislation will now head to the U.S. House of Representatives for a vote.

In addition to lowering crime rates, enhancing prison security and improving officer safety, the First Step Act of 2018, S.3649, also reforms mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines and prepares inmates for a successful return to society.

“In Georgia, we’ve already seen positive results from our criminal justice reform efforts led by Governor Nathan Deal, and I’m glad to see this push at the federal level, because we know it can work,” said Isakson. “Representative Doug Collins deserves real credit for this bipartisan effort, which has earned widespread support in Congress, from our state and law enforcement officials, our churches and faith communities. These reforms can help change lives and help ensure a better long-term outcome by focusing on rehabilitation of low-level, non-violent offenders so that they can become productive members of our society. I’m pleased to see this legislation advance.”

To rehabilitate prisoners and help prevent future offences, the First Step Act allows prisoners to earn time credits for pre-release custody through participation in vocational training, educational coursework, or faith-based programs that will help them successfully reenter society.

The First Step Act targets a specific population of federal prisoners who will eventually be released. It ensures that violent and high-risk criminals convicted of certain serious offenses are ineligible for sentencing reduction and other portions of the programing, including those who are convicted of crimes related to terrorism, murder, sexual exploitation of children, espionage, violent firearms offences, or those who are organizers, leaders, managers or supervisors in the fentanyl and heroin drug trade, along with those who are subject to a final order of removal under the Immigration and Nationality Act.

The bill would also makes a number of improvements to prison conditions, such as prohibiting the use of restraints on pregnant inmates, requiring that inmates be housed within 500 miles of their home, and extending compassionate elderly early release provisions.

U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga.-09, introduced an earlier version of the Formerly Incarcerated Reenter Society Transformed Safely Transitioning Every Person Act, or FIRST STEP Act, in the U.S. House of Representatives, where it passed on May 22, 2018. Collins has been selected as the lead Republican on the House Judiciary Committee for the next session of Congress beginning in January 2019.

The First Step Act has been endorsed by the National Fraternal Order of Police and other law enforcement officials and organizations, the National Governor’s Association, and a broad coalition of conservative, progressive and faith groups. President Trump has also indicated that he supports the measure.

The full text of the bill can be found online here, along with a fact sheet and a section-by-section breakdown of the measure.