Lawmakers working on bipartisan criminal justice reform

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With momentum building for a bipartisan criminal justice reform bill, holdout lawmakers are demanding last minute changes.

A group of Republican Senators that includes Pat Toomey from Pennsylvania, John Kennedy from Louisiana and Arkansas’s Tom Cotton said the first step act goes too easy on too many convicted criminals.

The FIRST STEP Act restricts mandatory minimum sentencing for nonviolent offenders. It provides more funding for prison education programs, and it allows some federal inmates the possibility of early release with good behavior.

“Right now, I think the Senate bill is overly ambitious, overbroad,” said Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tennessee. 

Fleischmann supports changes to limit the types of convicts that might benefit from the bill.

The senators also want changes to require that victims be notified before an inmate is released, and that would track inmates after release to determine if they re-offend.

But there is bipartisan momentum in support of the First Step Act as currently written. Supporters say public safety protections are already in place. President Trump is one of the bill’s most important backers. 

“President Trump’s involvement on this issue and leadership on this issue has been very strong and it has had a clear cause and effect,” Fleischmann said. 

Still, the holdout senators are promising to push for their changes before the Senate gets to a final vote on the bill.

That final vote on the bill could come as early as this week.

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