Former Assembly Minority Leader Pat Nolan was in the Oval Office Friday for the signing of a bill making changes to federal sentencing laws and is intended to help prepare federal inmates for their releases.
Nolan, a Republican who represented the Glendale area from 1978-94, served 25 months in a federal prison in the 1990s for his guilty plea to a racketeering charge in connection with the state capitol sting operation known as Shrimpscam. Nolan said he accepted the plea bargain because he feared a longer sentence if convicted by a jury.
Nolan won Republican support for the First Step Act of 2018 in his role as director of the American Conservative Union Foundation’s Center for Criminal Justice Reform, which was formed in 2014.
During Friday’s signing ceremony, Jared Kushner, a senior adviser to President Donald Trump, introduced Nolan, calling him “my friend.”
“There’s somebody here overlooking all of this, and that’s Chuck Colson,” Nolan said, referring to the late special counsel to President Richard M. Nixon who served seven months in federal prison for Watergate-related crimes and recruited Nolan to become president of the Prison Fellowship Ministries’ Justice Fellowship, which works to reform the criminal justice system.
“He was a lonely voice among conservatives, saying we had to reform the criminal justice system … so I’m sure he’s smiling down from heaven.”
Nolan referred to Kushner, who led the administration’s efforts on the bill, as “a superstar.”
“I’m impressed with him so much,” Nolan said.
The First Step Act is intended to promote participation by federal prisoners in vocational training, educational coursework or faith-based programs in an attempt to reduce the recidivism rate. The bill also seeks to place federal inmates closer to their communities in order to facilitate family visitation.
The bill eliminates federal three-strike mandatory life sentence provisions and reduces enhanced sentences for certain non-violent repeat drug offenders.
“(The First Step Act) will make communities safer and save tremendous taxpayers dollars,” Trump said. “It brings much needed hope to many families during the holiday season.”
S. 756 was approved by the Senate, 87-12, Tuesday and by the House of Representatives, 358-36, Thursday. It received support from faith-based organizations, law enforcement and business groups.
Speaking at the Oval Office ceremony, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, called passage of the bill “an example of bipartisan cooperation coming forward in the interest of justice, in the interest of moving our country in a more just direction.”
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