Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) released the following statement after the Senate passed the First Step Act, bipartisan legislation to reform the criminal justice system:
“I saw firsthand in Nevada that our state is stronger when we give law enforcement the flexibility to render sentences that fit the crimes committed and provide opportunities to support those incarcerated to rejoin society. This legislation will help rehabilitate nonviolent offenders so that they can contribute to our communities and provides guidelines for judges to ensure that they are not forced to order severe sentences that do not match the crime. I applaud my Senate colleagues for coming together and standing up for justice in a bipartisan way and for taking action on meaningful criminal justice reform.”
The First Step Act will make the following changes to the criminal justice system:
- Expands the Safety Valve: Allows judges to sentence below the mandatory minimum for qualified low-level nonviolent drug offenders who cooperate with the government.
- Retroactive Application of Fair Sentencing Act (FSA): Allows individuals still serving sentences under the pre-FSA 100-to-1 crack-powder sentencing disparity to petition for sentence reductions.
- Unfair Two-Strikes and Three-Strikes Laws: Reduces the 2nd strike mandatory minimum of 20 years to 15 years, and reduces the 3rd strike mandatory minimum of life in prison to 25 years.
- Eliminates 924(c) “stacking”: Ensures that sentencing enhancements for repeat offenses apply only to true repeat offenders by clarifying enhancements cannot unfairly be “stacked,” i.e., applied to conduct within the same indictment.
- Good Time Credit Fix: Revises the good-time credit law to accurately reflect congressional intent by allowing all federal prisoners to earn 54 days of credit per year, rather than 47 days.
- New Earned Time Credit: For every 30 days of recidivism-reduction programming or productive activities an eligible prisoner completes, the prisoner will earn 10 days of time credit (plus five additional days for lower risk prisoners) towards early placement in a halfway house, home confinement, or up to one year of supervised release.
- Independent Review Committee: Establishes an Independent Review Committee of outside experts to assist in developing, reviewing, and validating the risk and needs assessment system.
- Pregnant Prisoners and Feminine Healthcare Products: Prohibits shackling pregnant prisoners and requires healthcare products be provided to incarcerated women.
- Family Contact: Requires prisoners be placed within 500 driving miles of their home, and provides additional phone, video conferencing and visitation privileges.
- Opioid Treatment: Expands evidence-based opioid and heroin abuse treatment for inmates.
- Strengthens Compassionate Release: Expands compassionate release under the Second Chance Act and expedites and improves transparency in compassionate release applications.
- Effectively Ends Federal Juvenile Solitary Confinement