As many who follow our website and blogs know, the Republican controlled House of Representatives passed the First Step Act on May 22, 2018 and presented it to the Senate the day after. The First Step Act is a federal prison reform bill that will allow federal inmates to earn more time in alternative facilities such as Residential Reentry Centers (Halfway Houses) and Home Confinement upon successful completion of certain types of vocational and rehabilitative programs while in federal prison. It also would allow for a true 54 days of Good Time Credit rather than the Bureau of Prisons’ interpretation of only 47 days. The Senate has yet to take any substantive action on the First Step Act as certain senators on both sides of the aisle are pushing for a more expansive bill that would include sentencing reform as well. These senators are seeking a bill that would reduce prison sentences for large class of non-violent offenders. However, politics being what it is, there are other senators that, although they support the First Step Act, oppose the more expansive bill that includes sentencing reform. Thus, there is a standstill in the Senate as it appears that both the First Step Act and the proposed bill, known as the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, may very well be considered DOA—Dead on Arrival. Our view at NPSC is simple: Although our nation and its federal inmates needs BOTH federal sentencing AND prison reform, a half a loaf is always better than no loaf at all. With the midterms a mere 54 days away, time is of the essence to urge your Senator to push for approval of the First Step Act. To find your Senator’s contact information click here. Of course, if you have any question please feel free to contact us at 615-696-6153 or at email@example.com
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
Yesterday, the Senate and the House of Representatives introduced companion federal prison reform bills, which at present, appears to have bipartisan support. The bills, known as “Formerly Incarcerated Reenter Society Transformed Safely Transitioning Every Person Act” or “FIRST STEP” Act, if approved, would allow for the following:
- The bill would authorize $50 million annually for five years to provide education and vocational training programs to federal inmates.
- The bill would 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.
- The bill includes 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.
- The bill would 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.
- The bill would 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.
We here at National Prison and Sentencing Consultants hope that this bill, if passed, is truly a FIRST STEP in federal prison reform. Of course, if you have any questions, do not hesitate to call us at 615-696-6153 or email@example.com
Since 2015, when Senator Grassley introduced the bipartisan supported Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act (SRCA), it looked like there would soon be a ray of very substantial hope for many federal inmates and those facing federal charges at the time or in the future. Initially, the SRCA, generally speaking, comprised two parts: Legislation that would reduce federal sentences for a large number of federal inmates and defendants AND prison reform that involved allowing many federal inmates to receive certain rehabilitative credits that would ultimately allow them to serve more of their time in Comprehensive Sanction Centers, Residential Reentry Centers and in-Home Confinement. With respect to sentencing reform, the bill would have, at a minimum, expanded the use of the “safety valve” and reduce several mandatory minimums. However, it appears that the Senate is not at all interested in approving the federal sentencing reform aspect of the bill and appears to be poised to only consider the prison reform aspects of the bill. Although from 2015 through 2018, the progressive winds of change were moving in the right direction in terms of smarter sentencing whereby inordinately long periods of incarceration were being curtailed and meaningful second chance opportunities were becoming available. By all current accounts, it appears that sentencing reform is no longer a realistic possibility. It is time for all to contact their Senators and Representatives and advocate for true and meaningful federal sentencing reform
Well, finally some good news on the federal legislative front. It appears that federal prison and sentencing reform is finally gaining some momentum in the United States Senate. John Webster and National Prison & Sentencing Consultants (NPSC) is happy to share this good news. The long awaited Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2017 is on the agenda for the Senate Judiciary Committee TODAY. As many know, any bill introduced in the Senate is first referred to a Senate Committee for consideration. Many bills unfortunately do not even get Committee hearings. The SRCA is in fact getting a Committee hearing. For many that do not know, this bill IF PASSED and signed into law will have the following provisions (at least as now written):
- The bill reduces the enhanced penalties for certain non-violent repeat drug offenders and eliminates the three-strike mandatory life provision. It also, for the first time, allows those enhanced penalties to be applied to offenders with prior convictions for serious violent and serious drug felonies.
- Increases judicial discretion for sentencing of certain nonviolent offenders. The bill expands the existing safety valve to offenders with broader criminal histories but excludes defendants with prior felonies and violent or drug trafficking offenses unless a court finds those prior offenses substantially overstate the defendant’s criminal history and danger of recidivism.
- The bill also creates a second safety valve that gives judges discretion to sentence certain low-level offenders below the 10-year mandatory minimum.
- Reforms enhanced mandatory minimums & sentences for firearm offenses. The bill clarifies that the enhanced mandatory minimum sentence for using a firearm during a crime of violence or drug crime is limited to offenders who have previously been convicted and served a sentence for such an offense. Additionally, the bill provides judges with further discretion to sentence individuals who possess a firearm illegally, provided that the firearm was not brandished or discharged in relation to a crime of violence or drug trafficking.
As currently written many of these provisions of this bill, if passed into law, will apply retroactively allowing many federal inmates to be re-sentenced and hopefully allow for lower sentences. Of course, if you have any questions or may need or assistance, please contact National Prison & Sentencing Consultants at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 615-696-6153.
In an effort to keep our clients and readers up to date, we have listed below many of the pending bills currently in Congress to reform either federal prison related matters and federal sentencing matters. Readers should keep in mind, that these are just bills and have not become law and unless, they come out of Committee, approved by both the House and Senate and signed by the President they will not become law. It is indeed a lengthy, arduous and clearly political process but one that can be overcome providing we all participate in the political process. It is imperative and this stage that all with an interest in any of these pieces of legislation contact their Congressperson or Senator and urge that the vote for passage. We have also provided a link, so readers can check the current status of these bills and a brief summary as well as the actual text of the bills:
1. Justice Safety Valve Act – R. 2435 / S. 1134 (115th Congress) This bill would allow a federal judge to sentence defendants without regard to mandatory minimums under certain circumstances.
3. Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act – 1917 (115th Congress) This bill would limit the use of mandatory minimums as well as expand the use of the safety valve giving federal judges much more flexibility in imposing individualized sentenced. In addition, it would provide certain inmates with the ability to earn additional good time credits.
4. Smarter Sentencing Act – 1933 (115th Congress) This bill would reduce certain mandatory minimum sentences for certain drug offenses and expand the safety valve.
5. Mandatory Minimum Reform Act – R. 3800 (115th Congress) This bill would eliminate mandatory minimums for federal drug offenses except for those at the highest level of a drug conspiracy.
6. CORRECTIONS Act – 1994 (115th Congress) Although very detailed and rather complex, generally this bill would allow more federal inmates to spend more time in less restrictive environments such as halfway houses, and home confinement.
As always, if you have any questions about any of these bills feel free to contact National Prison Sentencing Consultants at email@example.com or at 615-696-6153.
In addition to the legislation discussed below, On October 5, 2017 Senator Grassley has introduced S.1917 – The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2017. Similar—but not identical— to the bill that died in the Senate in 2015, this bill would give the judge the discretion in a 10-year mandatory minimum drug case to drop the mandatory minimum to 5 years if the defendant has no drug or violent priors, did not use violence in the crime of conviction, was not a leader or organizer of the offense and admitted the crime to the government. Cooperation for this benefit is NOT required. In addition, it establishes recidivism reduction programs to facilitate successful reentry. For a synopsis of the complete bill, please click here. In obtaining assistance in investigating or researching a potential federal sentence reduction or for more information call National & Sentencing Consultants at 615-696-6153 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
July 24, 2017: Summer 2017 Legislative Updates-Federal Prisons
With the Summer halfway through, the federal prison rumor mill is in full swing. First, there are still many inquiries here at NPSC about the so called “65% Law” which would, if passed, increase the good time for federal inmates from 15% to 35%. While there are several bills introduced into the 115th Congress, none of them will involve increasing federal good time, we are sorry to say.
Second, there is also a prevalent rumor that all federal prison camps will be closed and that those inmates would be released in a Residential Re-Entry Center or Home Confinement. Such is pure rumor and there are no such plans by the Trump Administration or the Federal Bureau of Prisons to do so.
However, there are several bills that would certainly benefit federal offenders or federal inmates If passed.
First, there is a bill in both the House and the Senate, known as the Justice Safety Valve Act (H.R. 2435/S. 1134 (115th Congress), which if approved would allow the court to avoid imposing a mandatory minimum sentence by applying the “safety valve” in all cases not just controlled substances cases. In order to do so, the Court must find that imposing a mandatory minimum sentence does not comply with the goals of sentencing as enumerated in 18 U.S.C. §3553(a). We at National Prison & Sentencing Consultants strongly support the passage of this bill and we urge all to contact their Representative and Senators to support these bills.
Second, there is H.R. 64, Federal Prison Bureau Nonviolent Offender Relief Act of 2017 (115th Congress) which would allow nonviolent elderly inmates (over age 45) who have a clean prison record and who have completed half their sentence to be released. This bill, or some similar bill, has been introduced into Congress over the last 6 or 7 years with no progress or serious consideration. John Webster, NPSC’s Managing Director, does not believe that this bill has any chance of being passed under the current Administration or Congressional composition.
As most know, the current state of acrimony between and among both chambers of Congress and the Trump Administration, along with a fractured Republican party, lead us to believe that there will be no significant legislation affecting federal inmates of federal offenders at least until after the 2018 elections.
As always, if you have any questions please feel free to contact us at email@example.com or at 615-696-6153