In his prison pod, Matthew Charles watched on television as President Trump signed the First Step Act, which would change the federal sentencing and prison system. A few days later, Charles became one of the first people released under the law. He hopes Trump will talk about it during his State of the Union address Tuesday. Charles will be among Trump’s special guests, reports USA Today. The legislation passed by Congress in December is likely to be one of the few bipartisan applause lines in Trump’s address. Some advocates hope Trump uses the national platform to speed implementation of the law and push to expand it.
“We did a lot of celebrating post passage that was warranted because this was a groundbreaking bill and a lot of people worked for many years to get to this point,” said Holly Harris of the Justice Action Network. “(But) we can’t take our eyes off the prize, which is actually impacting lives. In order for that to happen in a real significant way we’ve got to make sure implementation is happening swiftly and appropriately.” Trump surprised people by 38 words to prison reform in last year’s State of the Union speech. “Everybody was pretty cynical that it would turn into any sort of action,” said Jessica Jackson of the DreamCorps #cut50 initiative, which advocates for criminal justice reform. But, ultimately, she said the address “gave us our first bit of hope that anything was going to get done.” Edward Chung of the liberal Center for American Progress said, “I’m not sure whether or not this administration actually believes in this piece of legislation or if it was going for a win. Regardless, the fact is this legislation will help people who have been over-incarcerated.”