College & Community Fellowship
College & Community Fellowship (CCF) is a nonprofit dedicated to helping women with criminal convictions earn college degrees so that they, their families, and their communities can thrive. We advocate for equity and opportunity for the communities we serve.
CCF supports students until graduation day and beyond, providing academic support, career coaching, financial development, and much more. We approach systemic change through our national advocacy and technical assistance programs.
CCF Response to House of Representatives Passage of the FIRST STEP Act
May 24, 2018
New York, NY – Yesterday, the House of Representatives passed the FIRST STEP Act by an overwhelming majority. College & Community Fellowship (CCF) firmly opposes the bill and urges the Senate to review and reject this bill. Though the bill attempts to make reforms to federal prisons, by and large, this bill stands to grow the for-profit prison system. As our partners at JLUSA put it, this prison system harms people of all racial and ethnic backgrounds and economic classes, and disproportionately harms marginalized people, including black and brown people, queer and trans people, and immigrants. Furthermore, as JLUSA points out, the FIRST STEP Act sets up the potential for long-term damage through its provisions which allow prison wardens to enter into partnerships with private entities, its calls for electronic monitoring as the only home release condition, and its earned credit provisions, all of which set the stage for the expansion of the custody of the Bureau of Prisons.
Perhaps most egregiously, the Act requires that all persons incarcerated in federal correctional facilities must be housed no more than 500 miles from their homes; while on the surface this provision sounds like an ideal condition that would help family members visit their loved ones, in actuality the provision is impossible without substantial investment in constructing new federal prisons.
Though the bill includes provisions for evidence-based recidivism reduction programs, the bill’s $250 million allocation over five years is insufficient to successfully fund the programs, and reveals a lack of consultation and input from service providers and the communities they serve. It would serve the nation better to focus on sentencing reform that reduces the prison population on the front end, rather than push forward legislation with a net outcome of expanding the federal prison system through new facilities and surveillance in the community.
Statement from Rev. Vivian D. Nixon, Executive Director of College and Community Fellowship, formerly incarcerated beneficiary of reentry programs:
“As we move into a more progressive bipartisan era of criminal justice policy, we must not relegate those who have been affected by criminal punishment to the economic or policy shaping margins. We must find ways to increase their chances of success by providing reintegration services that offer more than transitional housing, transitional employment, and stopgap medical services. We have the opportunity to embrace a public policy agenda that builds on the successes of programs like CCF, which has a recidivism rate of less than three percent over three years. We attain these low numbers through a focus on a sustainable delivery model that takes into direct account the needs of those directly impacted, and we urge the Senate to carefully consider the long-term implications of passing this bill, which stands to grow the criminal justice system while offering little to no meaningful reforms to help those directly impacted by the bill.”