President Donald Trumps support has put Congress within reach of passing the most sweeping set of changes to the federal criminal justice system since the 1990s, when fear of crime drove the enactment of draconian sentencing practices that shipped hundreds of thousands of drug offenders to prison.
This is no small feat. Reformers have been trying to get this done for years, but something always got in the way: partisan bickering, election-year politics, ambushes by opponents. Amid Washington gridlock, the First Step Act stands out.
The measure, which could go to a vote during the lame-duck session of Congress between now and January, contains several changes to the way the federal government treats drug offenders, both those who are in prison now and those who will face a judge in the future, NBC News reports.
If it is passed, thousands of federal prisoners would have access to more help preparing for life after the end of their sentences. Thousands of well-behaved prisoners would win freedom earlier. And thousands of people who are arrested for drug crimes in the future would become eligible for exemptions from harsh mandatory-minimum sentencing laws.