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The Negotiators A co-production with Doha Debates

Negotiating a Criminal Justice Bill Across Party Lines

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One negotiator tells her story of reaching across the aisle at a time when the United States felt more divided than ever.

Criminal justice advocates have tried for decades to pass legislation to reduce the U.S. prison population. Yet somehow, at a moment when the United States felt more polarized than ever, lawmakers managed to agree on a bipartisan criminal justice reform bill during Donald Trump’s presidency. It was called the First Step Act, and it reduced the sentences of thousands of incarcerated people in federal prisons.

This week on our podcast The Negotiators, we talk to Jessica Jackson, a lawyer and one of the key advocates for the First Step Act. She and political commentator Van Jones co-founded the group #Cut50, which helped advocate for the legislation. In this episode, Jackson tells host Jenn Williams how she convinced both Republicans and Democrats to support the bill.

For the full story on the First Step Act negotiations, we recommend watching the upcoming documentary The First Step, out in theaters in the United States in early 2023.

About The Negotiators:  Conflicts don’t just get resolved on their own. Most are settled through a grueling process of give and take, usually behind closed doors. On the new podcast The Negotiators, Foreign Policy is teaming up with Doha Debates to put listeners in the room. Hosted by FP deputy editor Jenn Williams, each episode will feature one mediator, diplomat, or troubleshooter, describing one dramatic negotiation. You’ll hear about a nuclear standoff, a hostage crisis, a gang mediation, and much more: successes and failures that shaped people’s lives.  See All Episodes

More The Negotiators episodes:

The Art of Hostage Negotiations—When You’re the Hostage

A Texas rabbi mediates a life-or-death situation.

Inside the Turbulent Negotiations Over Brexit

One negotiator remained constant throughout the four years of Brexit talks. Hear his story.

Inside the Youth-Led Fight for Peace in Libya

One reporter goes behind closed doors at the Libyan peace talks in Norway.

Other Foreign Policy podcasts:

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The suspected Chinese spy balloon drifts to the ocean after being shot down off the East Coast as seen from Surfside Beach, South Carolina, on Feb. 4.  Randall Hill/Reuters
The suspected Chinese spy balloon drifts to the ocean after being shot down off the East Coast as seen from Surfside Beach, South Carolina, on Feb. 4. Randall Hill/Reuters

The Balloon and the U.S.-China Relationship

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JERUSALEM, ISRAEL - DECEMBER 29: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Minister of National Security Itamar Ben Gvir react after sworn in at the Israeli parliament during a new government sworn in discussion at the Israeli parliament on December 29, 2022 in Jerusalem, Israel. Conservative Benjamin Netanyahu and a bloc of nationalist and religious parties won a clear election victory last month and will be sworn in as government to the Knesset today. This completes Netenyahu's political comeback with a record sixth term in office. (Photo by Amir Levy/Getty Images)

Israel’s Democratic Decline

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A Russian flag at the Embassy of Russia is seen through a bus stop post in Washington, DC on April 15, 2021. - The US announced sanctions against Russia on April 15, 2021, and the expulsion of 10 diplomats in retaliation for what Washington says is the Kremlin's US election interference, a massive cyber attack and other hostile activity. President Joe Biden ordered a widening of restrictions on US banks trading in Russian government debt, expelled 10 diplomats who include alleged spies, and sanctioned 32 individuals alleged to have tried to meddle in the 2020 presidential election, the White House said. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP) (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)

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