The First Step Act has reduced the sentences for 1051 inmates.
What We Know:
- The First Step Act of 2018 stands for Formerly Incarcerated Reenter Society Transformed Safely Transitioning Every Person. President Trump signed the act into effect in December 2018. Since then, according to the US Sentencing Commission, 1051 inmates received a reduced sentence. Out of the 1051 inmates, 91.3% of them were black, 3.8% Hispanic, and 4.3% white.
- The First Step Act is an extension of Obama’s 2010 Fair Sentencing Act. The Fair Sentencing Act helped decrease the racial disparity between crack and cocaine sentences by 82%. Even though black and white people use and sell drugs at about the same rate, black people are more likely to be incarcerated for drug charges.
- Initially, the First Step Act did not include amendments that addressed crack vs. cocaine disparity, drug sentencing, or sentencing reform. The main focus of the act was to address the racist war on drugs. Groups like Color of Change and The Prison Policy Initiative spoke out against the first draft of the act and encouraged Democratic lawmakers not to sign it until Republicans agreed to the amendments.
- The act also includes an assessment requirement that determines an inmate’s risk and needs. This is going to help inmates that are considered low-risk and have shown good behavior while in jail. This is expected to help release an additional 3000 inmates when it is finalized.
- Despite being and extension of Obama’s work in 2010, Trump and Republicans are claiming credit for enacting a law that helped release several inmates. Jared Kushner promoted the act and Republican lawmakers sponsored it. Because of this, The Washington Examiner refers to it as Kushner’s Reform Bill.
Regardless of who’s idea it started out as, the First Step Act is still considered one of the biggest legislative victories for advocates of criminal justice reform.