Although current political realities have effectively eliminated the chances for the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act from being passed, it appears that the First Step Act is poised for passage in the House of Representatives today. The First Step Act focuses solely on several aspects of federal “prison reform” rather than any form of sentencing reform. Although, many Democratic Representatives are voicing their opposition to this bill, asserting that it does not include any sentencing reform measures. Although such is true, we here at NPSC feel that half a loaf is better than none at all. With a GOP controlled House, Senate and White House it is not expected that comprehensive sentencing reform is likely at least until after the 2018 mid-term elections. Indeed, last week President Trump announced that he does support the First Step Act and will sign it if it gets on his desk.
The First Step Act, if passed, would:
- authorize $50 million annually for five years to provide education and vocational training programs to federal inmates.
- allow more federal prisoners to take advantage of credits that would allow inmates to serve part of their sentence in home confinement or at a halfway house.
- provide a technical fix that would allow inmates to earn up to 54 days of “good time” credit a year, up from 47 days annually under current Bureau of Prisons’ interpretation of the law.
- amend 18 U.S.C. §3621 to require the Bureau of Prisons to initially place or transfer most inmates closer to their primary residence subject to programming needs, bed availability and security level.
- ease some of the requirements to obtain a “Compassionate Release” and, more importantly, would allow an inmate—rather than just the Bureau of Prisons—-to file the required motion before the court pursuant to 18 U.S..C §3582 to seek a Compassionate Release.
The staff here at National Prison and Sentencing Consultants will keep an eye on this very important bill and will update its subscribers and readers with any important developments. Of course, if you have any questions, please feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org