The First Step Act (Formerly Incarcerated Reenter Society Transformed Safely Transitioning Every Person Act) reforms the federal prison system in the U.S. with the goal of reducing recidivism. Its central component is the implementation of a time credit system which gives lower risk criminals credit toward prerelease in exchange for anti-recidivism training.
Signed into law in December, implementation of the program has been slowed somewhat by the need to first develop a risk assessment tool to determine who qualifies as low or minimal risk. However, the Justice Department has recently said that the Hudson institute will take the lead in assigning committee members to shape a final risk assessment tool so the program can get underway.
As some components such as the risk assessment tool are still being ironed out, guidelines for detaining juveniles are being developed, reports relating to the need for medication assisted drug treatment and dyslexia prevalence in the prison system are being generated, and pilot programs for youth mentoring and other reform measures are in the works. Under the bills sentence reduction provisions, hundreds of prisoners’ sentences have been shortened and hundreds more have already been released.
In an effort to create a fair justice system the Act also seeks to:
- Reduce crack cocaine sentences
- Curb mandatory minimum sentencing
- Enforcement of existing rules that require prisons to provide rehab, education and training opportunities as well as time off for good behavior
- Increased federal spending on job training and education programs
- Expansion of compassionate release programs for elderly and terminally ill inmates
- Greater use of halfway houses and home confinement as alternatives to prison
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