The First Step Act: What You Need to Know
In the past  months, hundreds of inmates have been released early from federal prison. Some of the released prisoners were elderly or ill, but most were just non-violent offenders who have exhibited good behavior behind bars. They are the early beneficiaries of the First Step Act, a new law aimed at ending mass incarceration, reducing recidivism, and improving prison conditions. The law marks a significant turning point in federal criminal justice reform. Here’s an overview of the First Step Act, who is impacted by this federal prison system reform, and what to expect going forward.

What is the First Step Act?

The First Step Act is an acronym for the Formerly Incarcerated Reenter Society Transformed Safely Transitioning Every Person Act. It is expected to change the lives of an estimated 30 percent of the federal prison population over the next decade by slashing sentences, curbing mandatory minimums, improving prison conditions and reducing recidivism rates. The Act was approved by both the House of Representatives and the Senate and was signed by the President late last year. It was one of the few recent bipartisan bills passed in Congress - a notable feat in a political era marred with polarization and gridlock.

Who Does First Step Act Impact?

The First Step Act does not affect the vast majority of prisoners in the U.S. It only applies to inmates in federal prison. It doesn’t apply to prisoners convicted of state crimes and housed in state prisons. Of the 2.1 million people incarcerated in U.S. prisons, only 180,000 are federal inmates. Because it only affects the federal prison population, the Act itself has a relatively limited view in the larger criminal justice scheme. It doesn’t have sweeping effects across the criminal justice system, but attempts to move the needle towards less draconian sentencing structures. donald trump first step act

What Does the First Step Act Do?

The First Step Act focuses on rehabilitation, rather than punishment, and reforms some of the nation’s harshest sentencing policies. It also gives more protections to women inmates and prepares inmates for life after prison. Here are some of the major provisions of the First Step Act:   donald trump second chance act

What is the Second Step Act?

In April 2019, President Trump announced plans for a Second Step Ac, which will focus on helping prison inmates find employment. This chapter of legislation aims to lower unemployment among former inmates to single digits within five years. And while these are all steps in the right direction, there is still much work to be done in regard to federal prison reform.
Varghese Summersett PLLC
Varghese Summersett PLLC