Uncommonly Positive Changes to the Federal Criminal Justice System Passed in Congress The phrase “The system is broken” is so widely spoken when discussing our criminal justice system, it has become cliché. It’s not a well-kept secret that the criminal justice system is flawed in more ways
than one. Surprisingly, however, Congress appears to have finally started listening to the voices raising concern. Today, Congress passed monumental legislation, “The First Step Act,” which, as its name suggests, advances justice in a few small ways for thousands of Federal inmates through sentencing reform.
5 important reforms included
The First Step Act creates a few changes to Federal law, which will drastically change the lives of those inmates affected and their families. The Act would make the following reforms:
- Retroactive Sentencing– The Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 fixed the disparity in sentences between powder and crack cocaine offenses. However, Federal inmates who were unfairly sentenced prior to 2010 had no redress. The 2010 Act made sentences fair going forward, but
those who started serving time before that change were out of luck! The First Step Act recognizes that injustice and makes the change retroactive.
- Eases Mandatory Minimums– The First Step Act changes the mandatory minimum sentence from a life term to just 25 years for those who have 3 convictions under the 3 strike rule. The Act also restricts stacking gun charges against drug offenders (which can add decades to a person’s sentence). These provisions will lead to shorter, more appropriate prison sentences in the future.
- Increases Good Time Credit– Currently, inmates who exhibit good behavior can earn up to 47 days of credit per year incarcerated. The First Step Act ups this number to 54. This change also applies retroactively. (They’re learning!)
- Good Time Credit for Participation in Programming– If qualifying Federal inmates participate in more vocational, educational, and rehabilitative programming, they may be awarded good time credit and be released early to a halfway house or home confinement.
- Inmates Placed Closer to Family– The First Step Act also creates an extremely positive requirement that Federal inmates be placed in facilities close to their families. This is important because it will allow them to remain connected to their supportive relationships and will set them up for a greater likelihood of success upon release.
The First Step Act includes several other miscellaneous and important provisions that positively affect Federal inmates. Let’s hope this isn’t the end for criminal justice reform, though. I say now it’s time to plan Step Two.
Let us help you and your loved ones effected by First Step Act
If you believe you or a loved one might be impacted by the First Step Act, call London Defense to speak to an attorney who can help clarify how the law will help. A consultation with a Minnesota criminal defense attorney is absolutely free and our phones are answered 24/7. Call 612-501-4866.