One year later: How the First Step Act is helping reform criminal justice

Alice Marie Johnson

Last month marked the first anniversary of the First Step Act, a historic bipartisan effort that expanded early-release programs, rewrote sentencing laws, and increased after-prison programs designed to help people return to society. 

Alice Marie Johnson is one such success story. After serving 21 years of a life-without-parole sentence for a nonviolent crime, she was released from prison through an act of presidential clemency. Now, Johnson has become an advocate for others like her.  

Alice and Mark Holden, senior vice president at Koch Industries, reflect on the successes of the First Step Act and how unlikely partnerships have the power to transform lives in their recent op-ed, which appears on the Fox News website.

Alice’s efforts to advocate on behalf of those currently and previously incarcerated have only just begun. It is, after all, just the First Step Act. As Alice points out, the more than 600,000 people who return home from prison and rejoin their communities each year face myriad challenges, from acquiring proper identification to finding a job to securing housing. And although crime rates have dropped in states that have enacted sentencing reforms, barriers still exist. 

Which raises the question, what’s next? 

Here’s Alice’s and Mark’s call to action: “We need people in our communities … to unite over where they can make a difference, not on their differences. That is why we are both working with Stand Together to unite with anyone who seeks to improve our justice system. We also need partners in business to help individuals take the next step as productive members of society and help recruit, train and hire qualified applicants who might not otherwise get an opportunity with a record.”

Stand Together is proud to stand beside Alice, who is lending her powerful voice and experience to amplify and drive the conversation about positive action. 

Johnson herself says it simply and best: “Together, we can take the next step, and we must.”

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Learn more about Stand Together’s criminal justice reform efforts.