Washington, D.C. – Bread for the World urges Members of Congress to support the revised FIRST STEP Act (S. 3649) and commends Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) for ensuring this legislation includes key sentencing reforms. This bipartisan legislation addresses unjust sentencing laws and provides returning citizens with the skills they need to succeed.
“As its name implies, the FIRST STEP Act is only an initial step towards criminal justice reform,” said Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World. “Reforming the criminal justice system is a work in progress and critical to ending hunger and poverty in the United States.”
The FIRST STEP Act reduces mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offences and gives judges more flexibility in sentencing. It provides for education, training, and treatment programs that will reduce recidivism to help people successfully reenter society.
While the FIRST STEP Act is an important first step, Bread is cautious that the risk assessment tool could be implemented in a way to have a disparate impact on communities of color. Bread is also concerned that the final legislation did not make all sentencing reforms retroactive.
“The risk assessment tool must account for existing racial and gender disparities in the criminal justice system,” said Marlysa D. Gamblin, domestic advisor for policy and programs, specific populations at Bread for the World Institute. “We look forward to working with lawmakers and the independent commission to help assist in applying a racial and gender equity lens in the design and implementation of the risk assessment tool to avoid disparate impact on men and women of color.”
Jesus says in Luke 10:27, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart…and your neighbor as yourself.” When we understand the value and worth of our neighbors and ourselves, we will promote policies that emulate the justice of God’s kingdom.