First Step Act Isn’t Sweeping Criminal Justice Reform

The legislation, when enacted, would enable some federal inmates to seek early release, while also granting federal judges greater freedoms with regards to minimum sentences in certain cases, among other minor reforms. 

THE REFORMS IN the First Step Act would be very real — just not very big. Measures included in the bill would retroactively end the discrepancy in federal sentences for drug offenses involving crack and the powder form of cocaine; this would reduce jail time for thousands of prisoners already serving time for crack offenses. Federal judges would be granted more flexibility from mandatory minimum sentences, and some mandatory minimums would be reduced. The bill’s provisions also include increased funding for educational and vocational training programs, and would allow prisoners to earn greater sentence reductions through good behavior and vocational training. Up to 4,000 of the 180,000 people incarcerated in federal prison could see early release on the new good behavior standard.

…The legislation could make a crucial material difference to the lives of thousands of incarcerated people — something that should not be dismissed ­— but it would hardly make a dent in America’s mass incarceration problem.

First Step Act Isn’t Sweeping Criminal Justice Reform


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