December 20, 2018

Statement of Bob Carlson, ABA president Re: Passage of the First Step Act

WASHINGTON, Dec. 20, 2018 — The American Bar Association applauds the passage of the First Step Act by Congress and urges President Donald Trump to sign it into law. Our criminal justice system is in urgent need of reform and this bill is an important step towards achieving comprehensive improvements.

The First Step Act culminates several years of drafting and compromise by many lawmakers and stakeholders. The ABA is proud to support many of the provisions in the bill, including ones that will ease some mandatory minimum sentences, give federal judges more flexibility to make exceptions to others, and allow inmates to reduce their time in prison through good behavior and vocational training.

The ABA further supports the expansion of recidivism-reducing programs, “compassionate release” for the elderly and terminally ill, and the elimination of sentences of life without parole and solitary confinement for juveniles. Also, including the Second Chance Act provisions in this bill will help men, women, and juveniles successfully transition from correctional confinement to become productive members of their communities. Many of these provisions both save money and make our streets safer.

While we do not support several provisions and omissions in the legislation, ultimately, the First Step Act can achieve positive and necessary improvements to the federal criminal justice system.

Bringing together Republicans and Democrats, progressives and conservatives, to effect change and improve the criminal justice system is truly encouraging. The ABA looks forward to working with Congress and stakeholders to produce future enhancements that will further improve our system for all.

With more than 400,000 members, the American Bar Association is one of the largest voluntary professional membership organizations in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law. View our privacy statement online. Follow the latest ABA news at and on Twitter @ABANews.