House Passes FIRST STEP Act with Rep. Gaetz Amendment

December 20, 2018
Press Release

Washington, D.C. — Today, by a vote of 358-36, the U.S. House of Representatives passed S. 756, the First Step Act, comprehensive prison reform legislation that lowers recidivism rates by prisoners through rehabilitation. The bill includes language initially offered as an amendment by Congressman Matt Gaetz (FL-01), implementing youth mentorship and dog training programs in at least 20 federal prisons for 5 years. In the initial version of the bill, these programs were limited to ten prisons over two years. In mentorship programs, young inmates are paired with volunteers from faith-based or community organizations, as well as former inmates. In dog training programs, inmates train dogs — from basic obedience skills, to skills required to be a service or therapy dog.


The far-reaching legislation is the most significant overhaul of America’s criminal justice system in a generation, and has been strongly supported by President Trump, Jared Kushner, and Lara Trump. Having already passed the Senate, the First Step Act will now go to President Trump for his signature.


Following the passage of the First Step Act, Rep. Gaetz issued the following statement:

“I am proud that the Congress passed the First Step Act, and even happier that the bill received such widespread bipartisan support. This bill makes tremendous strides to improve America’s prison system, helping keep prisoners from returning to a life of crime upon their release. The most important step in preventing recidivism is teaching prisoners how to become productive members of society. President Trump has shown great interest in the rehabilitation of prisoners, and this compassionate and important bill will be remembered as one of the greatest achievements of his presidency. I look forward him signing the First Step Act into law.”


Lara Trump, President Trump’s daughter-in-law, has been a long-time advocate for prison reform and dog programs. In 2017, she was instrumental in leading a meeting of political leaders and Cabinet members to advocate for “pets for vets” programs, in which abandoned pets would find homes with veterans. Speaking about the First Step Act and Rep. Gaetz’s expansion of animal programs, Ms. Trump said:

“The First Step Act is an important and humane bill to improve America’s prison system. The animal and mentorship programs included in the bill — and strengthened by Mr. Gaetz’s hard work in the Judiciary Committee — will improve inmates’ quality of life, as well as the lives of our four-legged friends. This bill is a step forward for criminal justice reform, and it will help animal shelters and abandoned animals nationwide.”