[1/29/19] – Criminal Justice Reform: What is the First Step Act?

On December 21, 2018, the First Step Act, a bi-partisan criminal justice reform bill, was signed into law by President Trump. The landmark legislation seeks to adjust sentencing laws for non-violent offenders and reduce recidivism by expanding education opportunities, job training, and reentry programs for federal prisoners.

Instructors, click on the link below to download this week’s lecture for use in your classroom. The deck contains a writing prompt, a debate question, as well as other assessment questions.


Download the PowerPoint Lecture Spark for President Trump signs the First Step Act into Law







  • Writing: Why is the First Step Act significant to the criminal justice system?
  • Debate: The First Step Act will be easy to implement, since it is a federal law.
  • Poll: Do you believe that the act will be successful in reforming the justice system?
  • Short Answer: What is the First Step Act?


Current Events Quiz

1.The First Step Act seeks to ______.

a. ease mandatory minimum sentences

b. reduce “three-strike” penalty

c. help inmate earn reduced sentences

d. provide programs to reduce recidivism

e. all of these are correct


2. The First Step Act will affect which of the following inmates?

a. juvenile inmates

b. state inmates

c. federal inmates

d. the act will affect all inmates


3. The First Step Act has proven to be an example of which founding principle of the United States?

a. federalism

b. the separation of powers

c. checks and balances

d. congressional gridlock


  1. The United States has the largest prison population in the world and the highest incarceration rate. (T/F)


  1. The reforms in the First Step Act are modeled after legislation that has been enacted at the state level in recent years. (T/F)


  1. Assuring compliance for the First Step Act will be easy. (T/F)



Featured image: Julie Tuason/wikimediacommons

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