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Bishops’ Conference Praises Senate for Passage of the FIRST STEP Act and Encourages Passage in the House 

December 20, 2018

WASHINGTON—Following the passage of the FIRST STEP Act in the U.S. Senate this week, Frank J. Dewane, Bishop of Venice, FL, and Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, praised the Senate for passing the bill and encouraged the House to do likewise.

The full statement is as follows:

“I am grateful to the members and staff in the U.S. Senate, especially Chairman Chuck Grassley and Senators Mike Lee, Dick Durbin, and Cory Booker, for years of hard work and bipartisan collaboration that culminated in the resounding passage of the FIRST STEP Act last night.  I am also grateful to President Trump and his staff for their strong support and advocacy for this legislation.

The FIRST STEP Act contains several much-needed reforms for the federal prison system, including sentencing reform, strongly limiting the practice of shackling pregnant women in prison, establishing a maximum geographical distance between prisoners and their families, enhancing compassionate release for terminally ill and elderly prisoners, assisting returning citizens with obtaining government identification documents, and fixing the time credit system.  The bill also reauthorizes the Second Chance Act which will provide important resources for reentering citizens after release from incarceration.  I am very grateful to Senator Lankford for resolving a religious liberty concern that arose in a late version of the bill, correcting the issue prior to final passage. The bill contains many more fine provisions which will help foster a more just and merciful criminal justice system.

Today, the House of Representatives has an opportunity to pass this improved version of the bill and send it to the President for his signature.  Our nation’s criminal justice system is in need of reform, and this legislation is a worthy “first step” in the right direction and a model of bipartisan collaboration and good policy making.  As we approach the Nativity of our Lord, we are reminded of the need to promote justice and mercy in our society.  In this spirit, I call on the House to take up this legislation and pass the FIRST STEP Act.”