Trump endorses U.S. House prison reform bill

FILE PHOTO: A prisoner walks with the aid of a stick at the California Medical Facility prison in Vacaville, California, U.S., May 23, 2018. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson/File Photo

By Sarah N. Lynch and Jeff Mason

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -President Donald Trump endorsed a bipartisan U.S. House bill on Wednesday intended to reform the federal prison system and help inmates prepare for life after release, but the legislation faces an uncertain future in the Senate.

The original First Step Act, co-sponsored by Republican Doug Collins of Georgia and Democrat Hakeem Jeffries of New York, passed overwhelmingly in the House of Representatives in May and only focused on reforms aiming at reducing recidivism.

The new version, however, contains some sentencing reform measures that several key senators have long supported.

The bill in its current form would have to pass the Senate by year’s end before the new Congress is seated in January, and supporters hope that the endorsement by Trump, who has made the theme of law and order a central aspect of his presidency, will prompt Senate Republicans to act.

“Today I’m thrilled to announce my support for this bipartisan bill that will make our communities safer and give former inmates a second chance at life after they have served their time,” Trump told reporters at the White House.

“I urge lawmakers in both (the) House and Senate to work hard and to act quickly and send a final bill to my desk, and I look very much forward to signing it,” he added.

The First Step Act directs the federal Bureau of Prisons to assess which inmates should earn credits toward completing their sentences in halfway houses or home confinement.

It also broadens employment opportunities for inmates and expands compassionate release programs for the terminally ill.

The bill would do away with the “three-strike” provision that requires mandatory life sentences for third-time drug offenders, making the sentence 25 years instead.

A White House official, speaking to reporters after Trump’s remarks, said Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had urged proponents to wait until after the Nov. 6 congressional elections to pursue the bill and said he would ensure it made it to the Senate floor if there were enough votes in the 100-member chamber to pass it.

The official said he was optimistic they would obtain “way more” than 60 votes for the measure.


Kevin Ring, the president of FAMM, a group that pushes for criminal justice reform, said the bill “will keep more families together, strengthen communities, and keep crime low.”

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley has pushed his own criminal justice reform bill for years that is more comprehensive than the original House version because it would also reduce harsh prison sentences for non-violent offenders.

On Wednesday, he praised the First Step Act as “an important step in our shared effort to promote safe communities and improve justice … by ensuring that punishments fit the crimes, we can better balance the scales of justice.”

Earlier this year, Grassley was stunned when then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions wrote a letter condemning his legislation as a “grave error” that would reduce prison terms for “a highly dangerous cohort of criminals,” leading to a feud between the pair.

Trump forced Sessions to resign last week and replaced him with acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker.

The White House official said that with support for the First Step bill from Democrats and Republicans, it could be possible to do further steps on prison reform in the future.

(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Additional reporting by Steve Holland and Makini Brice; Editing by Chris Sanders and Clive McKeef)

Americans want armed school guards and tighter gun laws: Reuters/ poll

Instructors work with participants on proper gun handling during a firearms training class at the PMAA Gun Range in Salt Lake City, Utah, July 1, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Urquhar

By Maria Caspani

(Reuters) – A majority of Americans, including Republicans, Democrats and gun owners want stricter laws on gun ownership and armed guards in schools, according to a Reuters/Ipsos national poll taken in early March.

Hundreds of thousands of students and their families are expected to march in cities across the United States on Saturday to demand stricter gun control, part of the response to a mass shooting at a Florida high school in February.

The following are some of the main findings of the poll:


About 75 percent of adults say they want armed security guards in school, with some 53 percent in favor of publicly funding gun classes for teachers and school personnel and 45 percent saying school staff should be encouraged to carry a weapon.


A majority of Democrats and Republican voters support stricter gun laws, including 91 percent on both sides who say anyone with a history of mental illness should be banned from owning a gun. Eighty-four percent of Republicans believe people on the “no-fly” list should also be banned from gun ownership and 83 percent are in favor of expanding background checks. A majority of Republicans also say that assault weapons and high capacity ammunition clips should be outlaw


Gun owners are more politically active than others, the poll found. They are more likely to be registered to vote, and they express more interest in voting in November’s midterm elections, when one third of U.S. Senate seats and all the seats in the U.S. House of Representatives will be decided.

Fifty percent of gun owners said they are certain to vote compared to 41 percent of people who do not own a gun.


Gun control is on a par with the economy as a top issue that will motivate U.S. voters in November, the poll found.


One in four adults say they own a gun and a majority of gun owners say they own more than one gun.

Nearly 60 percent of gun owners say that the National Rifle Association gun rights advocacy group is either doing “the right amount of work” or it “doesn’t do enough” to promote the interests of gun owners. About 30 percent say the NRA is “too aggressive” in promoting gun rights, according to the poll.

Separately, about 38 percent of gun owners also say they would like to vote in November for a congressional candidate who would oppose U.S. President Donald Trump and 39 percent say the country is on the wrong track.

The Reuters/Ipsos poll of 2,389 U.S. adults was conducted between March 5-7 and has an overall credibility interval of 4-5 percent.

(Reporting by Maria Caspani in NEW YORK; Editing by Leela de Kretser and Grant McCool)

House to debate bill to reduce violence in schools

American flags fly on National Mall with U.S. Capitol on background as high-wind weather conditions continue in Washington, U.S. March 2, 2018. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. House of Representatives next week will debate bipartisan legislation aimed at preventing school violence following the Feb. 14 shooting at a Florida high school that ended with 17 deaths, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said on Tuesday.

McCarthy did not outline any other legislation the House might consider, which gun control groups are pushing, such as raising the age for purchasing semi-automatic rifles or banning them altogether.

The House already has passed a bill, which is pending in the Senate, to tighten government background checks on gun buyers. But it included a controversial provision to greatly expand the ability of people to carry concealed weapons anywhere in the United States, which is not likely to pass the Senate.

(Reporting By Richard Cowan)