Bipartisan criminal justice reform passed overwhelmingly by Senate

Senate Rejects Tom Cotton’s ‘Poison Pill’ Amendments to Criminal Justice Bill

"Congratulations to the Senate on the bipartisan passing of a historic Criminal Justice Reform Bill", Trump tweeted shortly after the vote. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., and John Kennedy, R-La.

Additionally, the bill expands eligibility for elderly or terminally ill prisoners to secure compassionate release.

"While the bill has marginally improved from earlier versions, I'm disappointed my amendments to exclude child molesters from early release and to protect victims' rights were not adopted", read a Tuesday statement from Cotton.

The would also add approximately 10 offenses to a list that excludes someone from being eligible for the bill's earned-time credits created to shorten sentences. Another change would make publicly available rearrest data for those released, as well as information on prior offenses and the crimes for which they were imprisoned.

It allows for more criminals to serve their sentences in halfway houses or under home confinement, and requires offenders to be jailed within 500 miles (800km) from their families.

House Speaker Paul Ryan wrote that the House "looks forward to sending it to the president to become law".

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced the quick turn of events, saying it was a "simple" bill but will show that Republicans, who have majority control of Congress, will finish the year by governing rather that prolonging a potential crisis. The bill would affect only federal prisoners, who make up less than 10 per cent of the country's prison population.

It's also unclear how many House Republicans, with just a few weeks left in the majority before relinquishing power to House Democrats, will return to Washington this week for possible votes. McConnell said the Senate will take up a short-term measure today to fund the federal government through February 8, a move that eases the risk of a shutdown and comes only after President Donald Trump backed off his demand for border wall funds.

"Let's see if we can keep our bipartisan coalition together, to pass a bill that the president said that he is ready to sign", Grassley said. As the Lincoln Journal-Star reported, Sasse said he opposes the bill because "it will release thousands of violent felons very early". "This takes away the victim's autonomy to choose to remain informed and notified, and autonomy is a key tenet of trauma-informed victim/survivor assistance". He said Cotton's amendment is too expansive and would prevent at least 30,000 prisoners from participation.

An array of liberal and conservative advocacy groups rallied in support of the bill. "That is not respectful of crime victims". For example, the Koch brothers-backed group, Americans for Prosperity, applauded senators for putting "policy ahead of politics".

The First Step Act - or the Formerly Incarcerated Reenter Society Transformed Safely Transitioning Every Person Act - is, at its core, a directive for the Justice Department to establish a system to assess the risk of a person to re-offend as well as to create housing or other incentives for offenders to participate in recidivism reduction programs.

Law enforcement groups were more split.