First Step Act Continues to Reduce Penalties and Create Positive Change
The Crime Report published an article about how the Federal First Step Act continues to make a difference in penalties received by those who recidivate. The First Step Act was passed by Congress and signed by President Trump in 2018. It allowed for offenders that were going to receive a minimum mandatory penalty or sentence to be reevaluated to reduce sentences that were unjust. The First Step Act also limited the “stacking” of penalties that would land individuals in prison for 25 years or more and has reduced these prison terms to five, seven or ten years.
The Commission said, “the number of federal offenders who got increased sanctions because of a record of previous offenses dropped by 15.2 percent, from 1,001 in fiscal year 2018 to 849 in the first year of First Step.” Even though in the past individuals had committed serious violent penalties, it did not subject them to more severe penalties based on this. “Of the 849 offenders subject to that provision of the law, only 36 had been convicted of one or more qualifying ‘serious violent felony’ offenses.” Only 11 were subject to enhanced penalties for convictions in which a weapon, robbery or assault was involved.
The First Step Act also created the allowance of offenders to seek “compassionate release” from prison by going to court instead of going to the Federal Bureau of Prisons. 145 inmates were granted compassionate release in the first year of the First Step Act compared to only 24 before the law was in effect. There is still a lot of work to be done surrounding reducing recidivism and helping individuals when it comes to penalties but many are hopeful the First Step Act will continue to help those and be the first step when it comes to moving towards a rehabilitative system instead of a punitive one.