Ranking Member Nadler Statement on Judiciary Committee Markup of FIRST STEP Act

May 9, 2018 Issues: Criminal Justice, Civil Rights

Washington, D.C. – Today, Congressman Jerrold Nadler (NY-10), Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee, released the following statement regarding the Committee markup of H.R. 5682, the FIRST STEP Act.

"At the conclusion of the House Judiciary Committee discussion of the FIRST STEP Act, I voted against Committee adoption of the bill.  I do not doubt that the bill is well-intentioned, but I am concerned that it fails to include sentencing reform and could establish a system in our federal prisons that would exacerbate the disparities in treatment of offenders that takes place at the investigation and sentencing phases of the process.  As a result, I thought it important to raise awareness of these shortcomings, and it is my hope that we can work on these issues as this bill moves to the House floor and the Senate.

"In my view, the proposed new system for providing incentives for prisoners to participate in recidivism reduction programming would be unfairly and counterproductively limited.  I do not believe we should exclude prisoners from participating in such a system based on their offense, and I do not believe that any prisoner who follows the rules of the system and successfully participates in recidivism reduction programs should be denied what they earned, particularly when such determinations would be made by the application of a risk assessment system that is itself highly problematic.  Numerous civil rights groups wrote to the Committee repeatedly to express such concerns and to urge us to address them.

"The bill does contain a number of provisions that I enthusiastically support.  For instance, the bill would fix the currently flawed manner by which good time credits are calculated, prohibit the shackling of pregnant women in federal prisons, and expand compassionate release for elderly prisoners.  Additionally, the bill was improved in important ways leading up to its consideration today, and joined with my Democratic colleagues in welcoming the change to make clear that the good time credit fix would apply retroactively.

"I commend the work done by my Democratic Colleagues on this bill, including Rep. Jeffries, Rep. Bass, and Rep. Richmond, as well as the stellar work of Crime Ranking Member Jackson Lee.  However, I remained concerned about these issues related to the incentive program and I wished to indicate that we must commit to doing more to address them.  In addition, as I have repeatedly indicated, criminal justice reform must be comprehensive and must also include sentencing reform, which is why so many Committee Democrats supported my motion to postpone the markup until such time as we could consider sentencing reform.   I look forward to working to achieve these goals on a bipartisan basis."

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