First Step Act Updates

November 13, 2018

Finally, a hint of welcome news from Washington, DC about the First Step Act. Recent reports suggest that the bill does have a chance of passing both Chambers of the current lame duck Congress before the break in mid-December. As many know, the First Step Act is a comprise bill of the much heralded and comprehensive Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act. The SRCA would have provided substantial changes to both federal prison sentencing as well as certain prison-based reforms. The First Step Act, as originally written, primarily included only the prison-based reforms of the SCRA and was viewed as a compromise bill. It passed the House of Representatives on May 22, 2018 and was forwarded to the Senate where it has languished since. Most recently, Senators have drafted a revised bill (Text can be read here.) which, by and large, embraces the version passed by the House but includes some sentencing related reforms. In particular, the bill would expand the “safety valve” to include defendants with more than 1 criminal history point; reduce the applicability of certain mandatory minimums for non-violent drug offenders and reduce the mandatory minimums for certain others. In addition, the bill would make the 2010 crack amendments, which significantly reduce the penalties for crack cocaine offenses, retroactive. As to the prison reform aspect of the bill, it would allow inmates who participate in certain programs to earn significant time credits, increased phone privileges and relocation closer to family. As to the earned time credits, they will not be applied to the sentence itself, resulting in a reduced prison sentence. Rather, the earned time credits can be used to increase the amount of time an inmate is assigned to a Residential Reentry Center, Home Confinement or Supervised Release. Our research has concluded that there appears to be substantial bipartisan support for the First Step Act, but of course President Trump must support this bill or it will not be signed into law. We are as optimistic about he [passing of this bill as we have ever been and urge all to urge the Representatives and Senators to pass this urgently needed bill. Of course, if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us at