Is First Step Act actually a 'jailbreak bill'?

Monday, November 19, 2018
Chris Woodward (

inmates in orange jumpsuitsPresident Trump is calling on Congress to take action and support bipartisan prison reform legislation known as the First Step Act, but a concerned citizen is not sold on the legislation.

Speaking at the White House, President Trump said the measure he is supporting contains many significant reforms.

"It will provide new incentives for low-risk inmates to learn the skills they need to find employment, avoid old habits, and follow the law when they're released from prison," he declared. "These incentives will encourage them to participate in vocational training, educational coursework, and faith-based programs."

The president went on to say that Americans from across the political spectrum can unite around prison reform legislation that "will reduce crime while giving our fellow citizens a chance at redemption."

More reaction ...

Rebecca Hagelin, columnist for The Washington Times, likes the First Step Act.

"The reality right now is that our federal prison system is disastrous," she explains. "We spend $80 billion a year in America on our prisons and jails with a really dismal failure rate of any kind of rehabilitation. We're pretty good at punishing people who we're failing miserably as a society on the federal level to actually rehabilitate."

Hagelin points out that the First Step Act is modeled various states that have initiated prison reform methods and have a great record of success. "We're taking the best of what's occurred in states like Texas, and Georgia and Oklahoma," she says.

Still, Daniel Horowitz of Conservative Review describes it as an early release bill, one that he contends will result in drug traffickers being released from federal prison.

"It is the wrong approach. It is opposed by almost every major law enforcement agency," he offers. "The problem is the members of Congress are only hearing input from political groups and C-level Hollywood hacks, rather than from victims of crime and from law enforcement."

Horowitz joined other conservatives this fall to sign a letter opposing the First Step Act.

Frank Gaffney of the Center for Security Policy sees things differently.

"What seems to me to be going on is a concerted effort to reduce sentences on criminals on the pretext that they're somehow nonviolent and have been serving excessive time, and in other cases to simply reduce the amount of penalties that will be associated with such criminal behavior going forward," he explains. "The reality is that the people in the federal prison sentence who would be sprung from jail early are, I believe, pretty much without exception very dangerous people, and whether we think of what they've been doing in terms of pushing drugs, for example, as nonviolent kind of depends on what you think about overdose. Is that a violent thing when it happens, as someone is murdered as a result of overdose?"


Gaffney thinks so. He also considers it to be a violent crime.

"A lot of the time, people who are involved in drug trafficking are engaged in some kind of violent activity in the process of doing so as well," he continues. "It may be murderous, it may be something short of that, but the fact that sometimes it looks as though that's not what they're in jail for is a function of having pled down the crimes to which they've pleaded guilty, and it's just wrong … to have tried to persuade the president and persuade the rest of us, persuade members of Congress for that matter, that this is going to be anything other than a jailbreak bill for a lot of people who will wind up back on the streets of America, once again engaged in, yes, violent criminal activity that we as a society should not be accommodating."

Gaffney co-signed a letter in October voicing concerns about the First Step Act.

11/20/2018 - sidebar added

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