Business community urges Congress to pass prison reforms

Prision Cells at Old Idaho Penitentiary in Boise, Idaho

In a letter to U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Monday, the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce urged the passage of the First Step Act, legislation that would lower mandatory minimum sentences for some drug offenses and provide more funding for anti-recidivism programs meant to help federal prisoners re-enter society, among other provisions.

The legislation has bipartisan support in Congress and President Donald Trump publicly announced his support for the reforms last week.

The First Step Act builds on prison reforms passed overwhelmingly by the U.S. House earlier in the year and adds new programs to help better prepare inmates to re-enter society. The legislation’s effect would be limited to only federal prisons and offenses.

In the letter to McConnell, Kentucky Chamber Senior Vice President of Public Affairs Ashli Watts noted the organization’s advocacy work on criminal justice issues and stated society and business benefit from a smart criminal justice system that improves public safety, strengthens families and communities, reduces recidivism, supports victims, and protects taxpayers, which she said can be achieved through prison reforms.

“Statistics show that 95% of those incarcerated will one day leave prison, and our goal should be to have them re-enter society, have gainful employment and be productive citizens.  The First Step Act will help achieve these goals, while also reducing the burden on taxpayers tied to the ever-growing cost of the corrections system,” Watts wrote.

Reports state McConnell told the president prison reform is not likely to pass in 2018 and instead a vote may occur in 2019 once the new Congress is in office and based on support of the bill.


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Jacqueline Pitts
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