The First Step Act is legislation passed by the Trump administration, which helps nonviolent offenders to find work when they re-enter society. It intends to help reduce criminal recidivism so that former inmates will not recommit crimes and return to prison and increase safety in communities, particularly minority communities where many former inmates return and have difficulty finding work.

On Feb. 5, 2019, President Trump said, “This legislation reformed sentencing laws that have wrongly and disproportionately harmed the African-American community.”

The president signed the bill into law on Dec. 21, 2018, and gave remarks concerning the legislation on Thursday.

President Donald J. Trump congratulates former inmates on stage who have benefited from First Step legislation, on April 1, 2019, at the 2019 Prison Reform Summit and First Step Celebration in the East Room of the White House. (Joyce N. Boghosian/Official White House Photo)

“To realize America’s full potential we must unlock the talents of every single citizen. We want to lift every American family out of poverty and into a future of hope and opportunity. In December of last year I signed into law groundbreaking and historic reform to our criminal justice system The First Step Act,” said the president.

Multiple attempts had been made in prior administrations to draft and pass laws to address this issue but bipartisan support did not occur and it was thought by many that such legislation would never be signed.

Johnny Taylor, president of the Society for Human Resource Management shared his reaction to the law being passed.

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“So I vividly remember December 2018, waking up one morning and reading in the newspaper that Congress had signed—had passed, and the president had signed, the First Step Act. I literally did not believe that would ever happen. (Laughter.) And, I mean, so much so that I got up and said, ‘I can’t believe it. Like, he said he’d do it. But I didn’t think it would happen.’”

Taylor said that after seeing the action taken on this vital issue he was also inspired to help.

“And the first thing I thought was: What can I do as an American to do my part in this?… we can play a role in that if we can help remove some of the barriers—those barriers that lead to high levels of recidivism. Again, no one wants to go back. And so what we needed to do is figure out how we could play a role—the country’s human resource professionals—to remove the barrier of employment. And so we’re bringing people back into the workplace.” said Taylor.

The president shared his appreciation for the bipartisan support for the law and to some of the individuals who had been instrumental working behind the scenes.

“They’ve been trying to do it for many years. And—many, many years. And nobody thought they could do it. And we got it done. But we had tremendous conservative support and tremendous liberal support. It was very bipartisan.” the president said.

President Donald J. Trump embraces Catherine Toney after she delivered remarks at the African-American History Month Reception, on Feb. 21, 2019, in the East Room of the White House. Toney was one of the first women released under the First Step Act. (Andrea HanksOfficial White House Photo)

“But they all wanted it.” added the president. “And it’s something that I’m very proud of. And Jared and Ivanka were incredible. And they really pushed it. It’s true. And I think they were being pushed a little bit also by Kim Kardashian. She’s right here. So, thank you, Kim. And Kanye. Thank you.”

Kim Kardashian expressed her appreciation for the opportunity to be involved in the efforts and her appreciation to the president for his concern about the issue and in seeing that the First Step Act was passed into law.

Kardashian said, “So to get the president’s support and to see it come to fruition was magic. And the one thing that I just realized that needed so much support, that I’m happy to help and be supportive where I can, was the re-entry of people coming home and seeing the lack of support that really existed.”

“And I just want to thank the President for really standing behind this issue. And seeing the compassion that he’s had for criminal justice has been really remarkable,” said Kardashian.

In wrapping up his comments, President Trump expressed the broad ranging ideals that are hoped for as a result of the legislation.

“We want to ensure that every American is prepared for the jobs of today and for the industries of tomorrow. And together, we are expanding the blessings of America for every citizen, from every background, from every community, and every walk of life.” said President Trump.