There are plenty of important conservative issues that should pass in the final weeks of the 115th Congress: building the wall, approving the nomination of several judges, and passing criminal justice reform.
That’s right — the First Step Act is a key conservative bill that needs to get done before we close out 2018. This is not the time for politics as usual.
This bill takes a model for public safety — perfected in Texas and used with success in Georgia, South Carolina and many other states — and applies it to the dysfunctional federal prison system.
At the heart of the First Step Act, is the risk and needs assessment that would be used for the Bureau of Prisons population to determine ways to correct the criminal behavior of those behind bars.
With that information in hand, the BOP will develop programming, education, and training opportunities that meets the educational, mental, health, and other needs of the prisoners, to mitigate their risk of reoffending when they are released from prison.
In turn, those prisoners will be incentivized to complete that programming by being offered more time in halfway houses, home confinement, or supervised release in order to finish out their sentence.
In addition, there are sentencing reforms for problems unique to the federal system, including retroactivity for the Fair Sentencing Act and an adjustment to the “safety valve.”
So what makes this conservative? This is how public safety increases. Just take a look at Texas — since implementing these reforms, the overall crime rate and the recidivism rate are both down. And the costs to taxpayers and lower too, thanks the Texas closing eight prisons.
President Trump has enthusiastically endorsed and supported the First Step Act. He stood in the White House’s Roosevelt room, flanked my members of law enforcement, to tout the bill, and I stand with him as well.
Conservative. Supported by law enforcement. Those are two strong reasons the bill passed the House, and why a majority of senators also support moving forward with passage. The only problem? They’re waiting on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to bring it to the floor for a vote.
There is another very important reason to pass the bill that is not often mentioned.
At that Roosevelt Room announcement, the president was backed by leaders of the black community. Just last week, Candace Owens of Turning Point USA led a group of young, conservative black Americans to meet with individual senators to encourage them to vote for the First Step Act.
Black Americans, more than any other group, have been deeply affected by a flawed federal criminal justice system, and the public perception for years has been that it was Republicans’ fault. President Obama talked about hope and change but came up short on criminal justice and prison reform during his eight years in office.
President Trump understands the problems this has caused the black communities, and has aggressively called for real solutions, the First Step Act, being one of them.
McConnell can and should allow the Senate to pass the First Step Act. It will reduce recidivism and increase public safety. Far more historically and needed, it will be a step toward a real Republican effort to reach out to black voters on issues that they truly care about and desperately need.
Bernard B. Kerik (@BernardKerik) oversaw the New York City Department of Correction from 1995-2000 as its first deputy and commissioner. He served as NYPD commissioner from 2000-2001, including during its response to the 9/11 attack. He pleaded guilty in 2009 to eight federal charges that included tax fraud and false statements, which led to a 48-month sentence in federal prison. He is the founder of the Kerik Group, which provides clients with homeland security, police and correctional training, criminal justice and prison-reform strategies.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.