How Has the First Step Act Helped Reduce Mass Incarceration?

 Posted on November 02,2023 in Criminal Defense

Untitled---2023-11-02T100405.233.jpgThe First Step Act, which was passed by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump in 2018, has been a significant step towards reducing mass incarceration in the United States. This criminal justice reform law aims to address issues such as sentencing disparities and recidivism rates. By implementing various reforms and providing prisoners with opportunities for rehabilitation, the First Step Act has had a positive impact on reducing mass incarceration across the country. However, many people who face criminal charges will still face an uphill battle as they defend against convictions or unfair and excessive sentences. To ensure that their rights will be protected, criminal defendants can work with an experienced attorney to address the charges they are facing.

What Is the First Step Act?

The First Step Act is a federal law that focuses on promoting prisoner rehabilitation, reducing recidivism rates, and limiting excessive sentences for people who are convicted of federal crimes. It was designed to address some of the flaws within the criminal justice system by implementing evidence-based programs and policies.

Prior to its enactment, there were concerns about overcrowded prisons, disproportionately long sentences for nonviolent offenses, and limited access to rehabilitative programs. The First Step Act has helped address these issues in the following ways:

Sentencing Reforms

One of the key components of the First Step Act is its focus on sentencing reforms. The act reduced mandatory minimum sentences for certain nonviolent drug offenses. It also addressed the disparity between mandatory minimum sentences for offenses involving crack cocaine and powder cocaine. Some of these reforms were retroactive, and people who had previously been sentenced under harsher guidelines can seek to have their sentences reduced.

These provisions have led to thousands of people being released from prison earlier than expected or having their sentences reduced significantly. By addressing overly punitive sentencing practices, this reform helps reduce mass incarceration by ensuring that people do not serve unnecessarily lengthy terms for nonviolent crimes. It also addresses the disparities that disproportionately affect Black people, who are more likely to be convicted of nonviolent drug crimes and are more likely to receive longer sentences.

Expansion of Rehabilitation Programs

In addition to sentencing reforms, another crucial aspect of the First Step Act is its emphasis on expanding rehabilitation programs within federal prisons. These programs aim to provide inmates with education and vocational training opportunities that can help them successfully reintegrate into society upon release.

By investing in education, job training, and substance abuse treatment programs, the First Step Act helps address the underlying issues that often contribute to criminal behavior. In addition to the benefits of participating in these programs, inmates are able to receive earned time credits and reduce the amount of time they are required to remain in prison. The First Step Act also expanded the good time credits that can be earned when prisoners demonstrate good behavior.

Evidence-Based Risk Assessment

The First Step Act also implements risk assessment tools to determine an inmate's likelihood of reoffending. This allows for a more individualized approach when it comes to determining appropriate sentences and eligibility for certain programs or early release. More prisoners have been eligible for expedited release, including compassionate release in situations involving extraordinary circumstances such as old age or severe illness. Many prisoners have also been able to be released and placed on home confinement, allowing for a better transition as they re-integrate into their communities.

Reducing Recidivism Rates

A significant goal of the First Step Act is to reduce recidivism by providing inmates with opportunities for successful reentry into society. Prisoners who have benefited from the First Step Act’s provisions, including rehabilitation programs, reduced sentences, home confinement, and early release, have a recidivism rate of 12 percent. This stands in contrast to the recidivism rate for the general federal prison population, which is around 45 percent.

Contact Our Hartford Criminal Defense Lawyer

Even though the justice system has taken some steps to address the issue of mass incarceration, there are many people who continue to face unfair and unjust treatment, including wrongful convictions and excessive sentences. At Woolf Law Firm, LLC, we provide representation for people who have been charged with criminal offenses, helping them defend against convictions. To learn how we can help in these situations, contact our Connecticut criminal defense attorney at 860-290-8690 and schedule a free consultation today.

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