Backing by the Fraternal Order of Police of the pending First Step Act makes it more likely that the prison and sentencing reform measure will be approved in the lame-duck session of Congress that begins this week. FOP’s endorsement clears a significant hurdle, Axios reports. The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) is also supportive of the bill, and publicly endorsed the version that has passed the House. Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who was fired last week, was arguably the administration’s single-most effective opponent of this kind of legislation. Republicans close to the leadership believe criminal justice reform could pass the Senate during the lame duck, but this is far from certain and hard-liners like Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) will be difficult if not impossible to win over.
Presidential adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner and his allies have been arguing that inmates whose prison time would be shortened by the law will be released anyway, so they should have the best chance to get jobs and build new lives. Four provisions addressing harsh federal sentencing guidelines have been added to the House bill during Senate negotiations at the insistence of Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Senate Democrats and others. The final language of this version of the bill has not yet been released, but they are expected to include eliminating a “stacking” regulation making it a federal crime to commit a federal crime while you have a gun, removing a “three strikes and you’re out” mandate that three-time offenders receive a life sentence, expanding “the drug safety valve” to allow judges to make an exception for nonviolent drug offenders when it comes to mandatory minimum sentences, and making the “Fair Sentencing Act” of 2010, which reduced the sentencing disparity between offenses for crack and power cocaine, retroactive.