Bipartisan criminal justice reform bill clears US Senate

AFP
Washington, DC, USA Updated: Dec 19, 2018, 04:08 PM(IST)

File photo of US President Donald Trump. Photograph:( Reuters )

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'America is the greatest Country in the world and my job is to fight for all citizens, even those who have made mistakes,' US President Donald Trump tweeted.

The US Senate on Tuesday night overwhelmingly passed a sweeping federal criminal justice reform bill, paving the way for the most significant change to America's justice system in decades.

The "First Step Act," a hard-won bipartisan effort, includes provisions to ease heavy sentences for certain offenders, give judges more discretion in sentencing low-level criminals, and improve prison conditions for women, among others. 

"America is the greatest Country in the world and my job is to fight for all citizens, even those who have made mistakes," US President Donald Trump tweeted after the bill was passed.

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"Congratulations to the Senate on the bi-partisan passing of a historic Criminal Justice Reform Bill," he said.

The bill passed by a vote of 87-12, and will now go to the House of Representatives, where it is expected to pass swiftly.

House Speaker Paul Ryan said the House "looks forward" to send the bill to Trump's desk.

One element of the bill would make retroactive the 2010 Fair Sentencing Act, which altered sentencing guidelines to treat crack and powder cocaine offences equally. According to government figures, that alone would impact over 2,600 inmates.

But the bill will only affect America's federal inmates, of which there are 180,789, according to the latest figures from the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the total US incarcerated population was over 2.1 million at the end of 2016.

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