- August 28, 2019
The First Step Act: Criminal Justice Reform
In the Justice System, 1.5 million prisoners were held in United States correctional facilities at the federal and state level. President Trump signed the First Step Act in December of 2018. The Act aims to provide rehabilitative and transitional services to reduce the rate of recidivism in federal prisoners and better provide for the prisoners’ needs. In addition, the Act provides for lighter sentencing guidelines in order to prevent disproportionate sentencing. Indeed, the State of Michigan has already experienced success in achieving this goal when it expanded prison reform efforts to include job training and other services in 2005.
The First Step Act primarily changes former sentencing laws and provides for reform of the federal justice system. Specifically, the Act provides drug offenders opportunities for shortened sentences contingent upon good behavior as well as job training. The reforms address outdated drug laws and clarifies mandatory minimum sentences. Previously, in many cases, judges followed mandatory minimum sentencing for drug offenders. Under the First Step Act, judges now have discretion to set their own minimum sentences for low-level criminal offenses. Specifically, the Act eliminates the “three strikes” rule, which required life sentences for those who were convicted for drug trafficking or serious violent felonies on three or more occasions. The Act mandates a 25-year sentence for that group of offenders rather than life in prison. Additionally, the mandated minimum sentences for serious drug felonies is now 15 years rather than 20. Under the First Step Act, judges are given the power the constitution intended to grant them in sentencing.
In addition to sentencing reforms, the First Step Act provides educational and training programs for inmates with minor drug charges to provide a seamless transition from prison back into the workforce. The goal of the Act is to help ensure that the inmates do not simply return to prison after they are released. The government now recognizes that crime can be a result of one’s environment and lack of opportunity, which is why the Act aims to ensure that inmates have the means and opportunity to earn for themselves before they leave prison. As a result, the inmates are better able to become productive members of society.
If you or a loved one has been charged with a felony, it is important to have an experienced criminal defense attorney who will work to ensure you receive the advantages to which criminal justice reforms entitle you. Call the Law Office of John Freeman today.