WASHINGTON – Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) today released the following statement on the Justice Department’s progress toward implementing the landmark criminal justice reforms in the First Step Act. Grassley and Durbin coauthored the First Step Act and led the charge to pass it last year with a broad bipartisan vote of 87-12.
“The First Step Act is the most significant criminal justice reform effort in a generation. Our bipartisan and bicameral work returned some fairness to the American justice system and demonstrated that Congress can still work across the aisle to effect positive change for the country.
“More than 1,100 inmates have already been released and 2,200 more are set for release today because of fairer sentences and recalculated time credits under the new law, and many more should be released in the coming weeks and months.
“The risk and needs assessment system required by the legislation should play a critical role in ensuring that prisoners participate in evidence-based programs that prepare them to successfully return to their communities. We will vigilantly review the new system that is being rolled out today. It’s critical that the assessment does not disproportionately designate minorities as having a higher risk of reoffending. It’s also important that the system include dynamic factors that show the positive impact of the rehabilitative programming.
“We appreciate Acting Director Hurwitz’s work to guide the process of implementation so far, but such major change requires a permanent director at the Bureau of Prisons and fully staffed prisons across the country. We encourage the administration to address this as quickly as possible. Funding for the changes will also be critical and we expect that the Department will work with Congress to ensure full funding for implementation. The Department should also continue working to ensure sufficient numbers of residential reentry centers are in place to accommodate release. Enlisting and promoting guidance for non-profit and faith-based organizations who wish to help must also remain a top priority to successfully achieve the goals outlined in the First Step Act.
“We appreciate the public commitment of the administration to fully implementing this landmark bipartisan legislation, and we are committed to working with the administration to achieve a smooth and timely rollout.”