Criminal justice reform on the horizon after bill passes the Senate

    The U.S. Capitol Building Dome is seen before the sun rises in Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2018. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

    MIAMI VALLEY, Ohio (WKEF/WRGT) - Criminal justice reform is on the horizon, and the Senate passed the first step act on Tuesday.

    The bill would reform federal sentencing guidelines and release thousands of inmates from incarceration, and reduced sentences for drug felonies and other non-violent crimes. It also limits the disparity in sentences dealing with crack and powder cocaine.

    The bill has receiving bipartisan support and praise from President Donald Trump, but Chair of Criminal Justice Committee of the Dayton NAACP Dr. David Fox said the bill just touches the surface of justice reform.

    "It's only dealing with the federal government that houses about 180,000 people and only 2,000 prisoners will be affected by that," he said. "We’re excited, but there need to be more done."

    "I think this bill sends a message of hope to the American people that, first and foremost, lawmakers can come together to enact criminal justice reform,” Director of Criminal Justice studies at the University of Dayton Martha Hurley said.

    Hurley said the bill goes beyond drugs and sentencing, touching on education and rehabilitation for prisoners. In some case, prisoners could earn credits for enrolling in certain classes that will help them in the future.

    "Those people returning to the Dayton area after a federal incarceration now are coming back having enrolled in education programs and rehab program that are evidence based, and not just based off gut feeling," Hurley said.

    Women's rights also being considered.

    "I think it’s incredible that we now have legislation to make it more difficult to shackle women who are pregnant that pose no threat to others,” she said.

    Both experts hope this bill will lead to reform on state level.

    "I think once you start seeing change happening at the federal level, it opens the doors for the states to start rethinking their sentencing and release strategies," Hurley said.

    "It doesn’t help society to put away an individual who could actually be rehabilitated before going to prison,” said Fox.

    However, not everyone is in favor. 12 senators voted no on it, arguing it could let dangerous criminals out too soon.

    The bill now goes to the House.

    ABC 22/FOX 45 spoke with Congressman Mike Turner (R - District 10) who said he expects the House to take action this week.

    The president is in favor of the law, and is expected to sign it by the end of the week.

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