On February 5th, Donald Trump held his State of the Union Address, and someone very special attended. Edward Douglas, one of the first people to be released from prison after the enactment of the First Step Act, has benefited greatly from this new justice reform. After being incarcerated for a low-level drug offense he was delivered a life sentence 16 years ago in 2003.
On January 10th, Douglas was released by a federal judge. He was one of many inmates who were doomed to serve decades for selling small quantities of crack. His children, who had been only toddlers and teenagers when he was incarcerated, are now 17 to 30 years old. Many of his children, some of whom he last saw on the morning he was convicted, drove to welcome him home. He never imagined he would see his family again. “They all came in at the same time, kids, grandkids, and they couldn’t all hug me at the same time, so they took their time crying.” Douglas remembered it as an experience he will take to his grave.
Edward Douglas, like many other inmates recently released, is ecstatic to get his life back on track. He immediately began rebuilding his life. He paid off old traffic fines, checked in with a probation officer, studied for his driver’s license and spent time with his family. He hopes to eventually work at his old job again.
The story of Edward Douglas illuminates the profound malfeasance in our broken criminal justice system. Democratic and Republican lawmakers alike celebrated the First Step Act as a common-sense measure to reduce the punitive impact on nonviolent offenders. With reforms such as this, there is a real hope of giving a meaningful life back to those released from prison and their families.