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Congress is on the verge of passing a landmark criminal justice reform bill called the First Step Act. The bill would take several steps aimed at helping low-risk federal prisoners, like non-violent offenders, move more quickly into halfway houses and home detention, and strive to do better at re-integrating ex-convicts into the private sector.
What’s just as interesting as the bill itself is the unusual alliance that put it together, including civil rights activists, President Trump, and the Koch Brothers. That alliance was critical to brokering an agreement between Democrats and Republicans in Congress.
It’s worth mentioning that not everyone is happy about the First Step Act. Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton says that the bill “flunks [its authors’] basic test to protect public safety.” Others, such as Sarah Anderson of FreedomWorks, describe Cotton’s objections as quote “misleading and [containing] at many times entirely false statements about the effects of the legislation.”
So who’s right? To help us sort it out, we’re joined today by a key player in the First Step Act, Vikrant Reddy. Vikrant is a Senior Research Fellow at the Charles Koch Institute, and has long been at the core of the effort to reform criminal justice laws, at the federal, state and local levels. Prior to the Koch Institute, Vikrant helped launch the Right on Crime initiative at the Texas Public Policy Foundation in Austin. He also serves on the Executive Committee of the Criminal Law Practice Group of the Federalist Society.