The real benefit of this law is that it will call attention to SO MUCH MORE WHICH NEEDS TO BE DONE TO RESTORE JUSTICE TO THE SYSTEM! People still are getting hammered with unjust laws!
Excerpts from the Article:
Prison reform advocates are hailing the Senate passage of the bipartisan First Step Act as a watershed moment for American criminal justice, which could positively impact the lives of thousands of federal prisoners. The sweeping legislation passed Tuesday proposes easing racial disparities in sentencing, dismantling some of the systemic holdovers from the war on drugs, and implementing programs aimed at reducing recidivism. To be clear, the reforms proposed in the First Step Act would affect only the federal prison system, which houses just 181,000 of the approximately 2.1 million total incarcerated population including state prisons and jails.
For every 100,000 people residing in the U.S, about 655 are behind bars, according to a 2018 report by the Bureau of Justice statistics – a 20-year low, but still far outpacing the incarceration rates in every other country. Soaring incarceration rates have disproportionately impacted communities of color: Black people account for 38 percent of the federal inmate population but make up 13 percent of the overall population.
Incarceration is also incredibly expensive: The annual cost per federal inmate is around $36,000, according to the Federal Register, putting the total cost of the federal inmate population at around $6.5 billion per year.
“Now that moderate sentencing reform is being positioned as a Trump criminal justice bill, it really moves the entire political spectrum on the issue to the left in terms of what reform-minded candidates and progressives should be bringing to the table,” said Inimai M. Chettiar, director of the Brennan Center’s Justice Program. “I think we’ll start to see a lot more bolder proposals at the federal and state level.”
Another reform to reduce recidivism is that federal prisoners have to be housed in facilities within 500 miles from their homes, which makes it easier and less expensive for family members to visit them. A study from 2016 found that in-person visitations reduced recidivism rates by 26 percent.
The bill also offers “time credit” incentives to enroll in and compete rehabilitative or vocational courses, which are also designed to reduce recidivism. If they earn enough credits, inmates could find themselves eligible for transfer to a halfway house or house arrest. However, that option would be available only to minimum and low-risk prisoners.
These reforms apply only to the federal prison system, advocates hope it will inspire state legislatures to follow suit. “This victory at the federal level is really important,” said Chettiar. “To see this victory playing out on a national stage is going to help increase public and political support for criminal justice reform throughout the country.”
While the passage of the First Step Act is being hailed as a victory by civil rights groups and reform advocates, they say the fight is nowhere near over, and are already sharpening their tools for the next steps. Chettiar says that the Brennan Center will roll out a package of model legislation for state and federal lawmakers to consider, which includes more progressive proposals, such as outright eliminating prison sentences for low-level offenses and ending cash bail.