CCF Statement in Opposition to the FIRST STEP Act

For Immediate Release: November 14th 2018

New York, NY –Tonight,President Trump publicly voiced support for the First Step Act, a bipartisan criminal justice reform bill intended to lower federal incarceration rates and improve conditions of confinement in federal prisons. This bipartisan bill appears to advance national criminal justice reform efforts through its provisions for reentry programming, sentencing reform, opportunities for some to serve parts of their sentences at home, and ending shackling of pregnant women as they give birth. While CCF supports these efforts to provide immediate and short-term relief to those incarcerated, we believe that the long-terms effects of the First Step Act serve only to expand the power of the carceral state. Through its emphasis on using risk assessments, already proven to be based on racial bias, the bill reinforces racial prejudice and ensures communities of color continue to be disproportionately impacted by the criminal justice system. Through its introduction of “e-incarceration” tactics like constant digital monitoring in the community, this bill sets a precedent for an alarming expansion of surveillance in communities already devastated by mass incarceration. Its sentencing reform provisions will prove inadequate, relying on judges’ discretion for the “drug safety valve” and replacing mandatory life sentencing with still-unfair 25-year sentences. CCF supports real reform that addresses root causes of mass incarceration. The First Step Act provides for immediate relief to those suffering in federal facilities, in exchange for long-term control in prisons and in our communities.

Statement from Vivian Nixon, Executive Director of College & Community Fellowship, formerly incarcerated person:

“In our fight for just reform, we must consider the long-term impact of policy. It’s tempting to support this bill on the merits of its effort to improve conditions of confinement. But these improvements mean little if they come at the expense of freedom for this and future generations. The First Step Act threatens our fight for justice by presenting e-incarceration approaches as progressive; in reality, this is an insidious move toward expanded control and surveillance in our homes and communities. Only by addressing the root causes of mass incarceration, based in racially biased policies and procedures, can we make lasting change. Real reform means investing in people and communities, not in for-profit prisons and surveillance.”

 For more information or to schedule an interview with CCF staff, please contact Melanie Steinhardt at or 646-380-7775. 
College & Community Fellowship (CCF) is a non-profit dedicated to helping formerly incarcerated women earn their college degrees so that they, their families, and their communities can thrive. CCF mentors students until graduation day, providing academic support, financial coaching, and other opportunities to build social capital. We approach systemic change through our national advocacy and technical assistance programs.