Attorney General Curtis Hill last week joined 37 other attorneys general in signing a bipartisan letter endorsing the national prison reform legislation known as the First Step Act. In announcing his support for the legislation, Attorney General Hill issued the following statement:
“All Americans should be encouraged by the bipartisan manner in which Congress and the White House have worked together toward the improvement of the federal criminal justice system. As to the specific measures enacted as part of the First Step Act, I especially applaud the new incentives encouraging inmates to participate in programs that develop skills, improve character and reduce the risk of recidivism. I expressed my strong support for such measures to President Trump and Vice President Pence at a White House summit on prison reform this past May.
“We can and must insist that offenders are provided genuine and meaningful opportunities to turn their lives around and break the cycles that lead them repeatedly into criminal behavior. The best correctional models are those that not only penalize offenders for their crimes but that also address social, emotional, spiritual, educational and family issues through targeted services.
“I support commonsense reforms such as equalizing penalties for crack cocaine versus powder cocaine. I also support granting judges greater discretion in handing down sentences. However, I continue to have reservations about legislation that summarily reduces sentences for chronic criminal behavior.
“People still need to be held accountable to the law. We must recognize that a very small percentage of people commit the large majority of crime in any particular community. And in order to protect law-abiding citizens, we must keep chronic offenders off the streets.
“On balance, the First Step Act represents welcome progress for the federal criminal justice system. In an era of political polarization, it also represents the kind of bipartisan compromise that is needed in a healthy democratic republic.”