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US House passes prison reform bill introduced by US Rep. Doug Collins
Doug Collins 2018
Doug Collins

The prison reform bill introduced by U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville, earlier this month passed the House of Representatives with bipartisan support by a vote of 360-59 Tuesday, May 22.

The House approval of the bill, also supported by President Donald Trump, sends it to the U.S. Senate.

“Today’s vote puts redemption back on the table for individuals who are committed to building brighter futures for themselves and their loved ones,” Collins said in a news release after the House’s passage of the bill. “Today’s vote recognizes the value of every person and responds with proven resources and restorative justice.”

The legislation, introduced on Monday, May 7, aims to accomplish a longtime goal for the Gainesville Republican: reducing recidivism through inmate-specific evaluations done at sentencing.

The bill intends to incentivize inmates to participate in vocational and rehabilitative programs by giving them additional “time credits” for doing so, which would allow them early release from incarceration.

The bill increases the cap of credits earned through good behavior to 54 days per year in prison from 47 days, and it earmarks $50 million a year over five years in additional funding to support ongoing inmate-reform programs.

The bill only applies to federal prisons, which house a small slice of the approximately 2.3 million people incarcerated in America.

According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, approximately 183,000 inmates are currently in federal custody.

Collins’ bill is officially dubbed the Formerly Incarcerated Reenter Society Transformed Safely Transitioning Every Person Act, or the FIRST STEP Act.

It was introduced by Collins in 2017 as the Prison Reform and Redemption Act. The current version of the bill is co-sponsored by Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-New York, and is being carried in the Senate by Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Sheldon Whitehouse, D-Rhode Island.

“This is a victory for all Americans who believe in justice and the importance of second chances,” Jeffries said in the news release from Collins. “This bill will provide the counseling, education, vocational services and access to hope and opportunity needed to help recently-released citizens get back on their feet and become productive members of society.”

Compiled by Joshua Silavent, Clark Leonard and Nick Bowman