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House approves criminal justice bill, sends to Trump

By Danielle Haynes
House approves criminal justice bill, sends to Trump
The House approved the First Step Act with a 358-36 vote. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

Dec. 20 (UPI) -- The House overwhelmingly approved a bill overhauling the country's criminal justice system Thursday, sending the legislation to President Donald Trump's desk for a signature.

The chamber approved the First Step Act with a 358-36 vote two days after the Senate passed it by a similar margin of 87-12.

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Lawmakers expect Trump to sign the legislation into law Friday.

The legislation would reform several aspects of the U.S. criminal justice system, including allowing inmates to reduce sentences with an earned-time credit program. Judges would also have more discretion, instead of mandatory minimum sentencing for some drug-related crimes. It would also boost prisoner rehabilitation efforts in an effort to reduce recidivism rates, and life sentences for some drug offenders with three convictions, or "three strikes," would be cut to 25 years. In addition, the disparity in sentencing guidelines between crack and powder cocaine offenses would retroactively be reduced.

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The legislation, which would only affect federal crimes, would cut off a collective 53,000 years of sentences over 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

The House approved a different version of the legislation earlier this year and had to amend it to make the Senate version.

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Trump has described the reform as "reasonable sentencing reforms while keeping dangerous and violent criminals off our streets."

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"Congress just passed the Criminal Justice Reform Bill known as the #FirstStepAct. Congratulations! This is a great bi-partisan achievement for everybody. When both parties work together we can keep our Country safer. A wonderful thing for the U.S.A.!!" he tweeted.

House Speaker Paul Ryan welcomed passage of the legislation, saying it's something he's "believed in for a long time."

"These reforms to our criminal justice system will not only reduce recidivism and make communities safer, but they will help people into lives of purpose," he said.

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Allen Cone contributed to this report.

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