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December 17, 2019

The Sentencing Project publishes short analysis, "One Year After the First Step Act: Mixed Outcomes"

I have been thinking lately about how best to explore and "celebrate" the coming one-year anniversary of the enactment of the FIRST STEP Act.  Helpfully, The Sentencing Project got the party started with the release of this two-pager titled "One Year After the First Step Act: Mixed Outcomes."  Here is how it gets started:

Congress passed and President Donald Trump signed the First Step Act one year ago on December 21, 2018, to limit mandatory minimums for low-level drug offenses, provide retroactive sentence reductions to people imprisoned under the 100 to 1 crack cocaine disparity, and expand rehabilitation in federal prisons. Implementation of the new law has been mixed.

While sentence reductions have been approved by judges, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has attempted to block hundreds of eligible beneficiaries.  There has also been a problematic rollout of the risk and needs assessment tool to determine earned-time credit eligibility and limited programming for rehabilitation.

Since 2013, the federal prison population has declined by almost 43,000 people because of reductions to the federal sentencing guidelines for drug offenses promulgated by the U.S. Sentencing Commission and changes to mandatory minimum sentences for crack cocaine offenses enacted by Congress in 2010.  Full implementation and robust funding for the First Step Act can contribute to further reducing the federal prison population, but Congress and the Department of Justice have more work to do to end overcrowding, ensure fairness in sentencing and improve prison conditions.

On the one-year anniversary of the First Step Act, The Sentencing Project applauds the bill’s achievements but cautions that additional reforms are necessary if we are to see a substantial long-term population reduction.

December 17, 2019 at 10:39 AM | Permalink

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