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First Step Act Glides Through House with Bipartisan Support

Today the House passed the FIRST STEP Act with overwhelming bipartisan support, sending the bill to the Senate. Introduced by Reps. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) and Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), the prison reform bill, which also has the support of President Donald Trump, would lower recidivism and prison populations through rehabilitative programing.

“The FIRST STEP Act passed today by the House will give incarcerated inmates in the federal prison system a better opportunity to change their lives.

“Rep. Doug Collins (GA-9) has demonstrated that he is committed to finding consensus for conservative solutions to major problems. Rep. Collins has led the way once again with a prison reform bill that will protect public safety while helping inmates earn a second chance at life,” said House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).

“This afternoon, my colleagues seized the opportunity to help men, women and their communities through federal prison reform. Today’s vote puts redemption back on the table for individuals who are committed to building brighter futures for themselves and their loved ones. Today’s vote recognizes the value of every person and responds with proven resources and restorative justice. Finally, today’s vote answers a question in the House and asks one of the Senate: Given the chance to accomplish good in this moment, will you act today or regret your inaction tomorrow?

“I also want to thank Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, who has been a friend and partner in this endeavor and an exceptional ambassador for the faces woven into this bill,” said Collins.

“This is a victory for all Americans who believe in justice and the importance of second chances. This bill will provide the counseling, education, vocational services and access to hope and opportunity needed to help recently-released citizens get back on their feet and become productive members of society. The FIRST STEP Act is not the end. It’s not even the beginning of the end. It’s simply the end of the beginning on a journey to eradicating our mass incarceration epidemic in America. Congressman Collins should be commended for his stalwart support and leadership in this critical effort,” said Jeffries.


Prison reform initiatives have demonstrated success in state systems, including Georgia’s, and the FIRST STEP Act would enable the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to capitalize on similar resources at the federal level. The legislation would direct the BOP to conduct risk- and needs-assessments for every offender upon sentencing, and then to offer individualized, evidence-based recidivism reduction plans to all inmates. Programs could include vocational training, educational support, substance abuse treatment, mental health care, anger-management courses, faith-based initiatives or other resources proven to lower the chance that men and women reoffend.

The FIRST STEP Act would also prepare individuals to reenter their communities as responsible citizens by allowing them to serve the final days of their sentences in halfway houses or home confinement, which equips them with support structures as they transition out of custody. As inmates progress through rehabilitation plans tailored to their needs and approach the end of their sentences, the BOP would conduct risk- and needs-assessments more frequently in order to document when individuals have successfully reduced their risk of reoffending and to ensure that the most appropriate resources remain available to them during the reentry process.

Additional provisions of the bill would require that prisoners be placed in facilities located nearer their families, prohibit female inmates from being shackled during child birth and provide individuals leaving custody with identification documents that are often pre-requisites for employment.

Toccoa and Commerce Students to Attend West Point

GAINESVILLE, Ga.—Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) congratulates Avero L’Conde “A.J.” Howard of Toccoa, Ga. and Owen Brown of Commerce, Ga. Both have excelled as students at the U.S. Military Preparatory School and been admitted to West Point as part of the class of 2022.

The son of Mr. Avero Howard and Ms. Uganda Burton, A.J. has served as captain of the Preparatory School’s football team and is a graduate of Stephens County High School.

Owen is a graduate of Commerce High School and will be part of the wrestling team at the U.S. Military Academy. The son of Mr. Stanley and Mrs. Sandra Brown, he has been a squad leader at the Preparatory School and made the Commandments List for his academic achievement.

“I’m proud of A.J. and Owen’s academic and athletic accomplishments at the U.S. Military Preparatory School. Their dedication has earned them spots at West Point, and I look forward to their continued service to our country there,” said Collins, who nominated Howard and Brown to the service academy.

Kemp Affirms Reexamination of Voting System as Accurate and Safe

ATLANTA – Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp confirmed a thorough and successful reexamination of the State’s voting system currently in use during the 2018 election cycle.

“As provided under Georgia law, I responded to a request made by ten electors to conduct an examination of Georgia’s current voting equipment to test its accuracy and security,” said Kemp. “After a thorough examination, the team’s recommendation is that the system is accurate and safe for continued use. I am confident that the current system, which is tested by experts for every election, continues to properly capture and reflect all voters’ choices.”

The examination was conducted over a three-day period with testing on November 27, 2017 in Muscogee County, November 28, 2017 in Richmond County, and November 29, 2017 in Bibb County. These counties were selected for geographic diversity, varying population size, and the fact that they were not conducting or preparing to conduct any elections at the time.

The reexamination involved a mock election with randomly selected votes on randomly selected equipment in three counties over three consecutive days. Voting equipment operated in “election mode” using a Global Election Management System (GEMS) database created from the same equipment which produces GEMS databases for actual Georgia elections. There was an exact and perfect reporting of all votes cast on all tested devices. Based on these results, the examination team found that the examined voting system could be safely and accurately used.

“To further increase resiliency and update an aging system, I completely support moving to a new system with a voter verifiable paper trail,” said Kemp. “My office is on the record that Georgia should aim to have that system in place by the 2020 election cycle. We took the first steps toward this goal with last year’s successful pilot project in Conyers, and that is why I have also formed a bipartisan commission tasked with analyzing the existing options and costs for a new voting system. I look forward to presenting our findings to the General Assembly and Georgia’s next Secretary of State in 2019.”

A pdf of the full report is attached to this communication.
Brian Kemp has been Secretary of State since January 2010. Among the office’s wide-ranging responsibilities, the Secretary of State is charged with conducting secure, accessible, and fair elections, the registration of corporations, and the regulation of securities, charities, and professional license holders. For more information about the office, go to