President Donald Trump has been criticized for many moves that he has made/words that he has said during his time in office. However, one of the highlights of his presidency has been the passage of the First Step Act. The bipartisan law offers relief to individuals convicted and sentenced to lengthy prison sentences for selling crack by retroactively applying the Fair Sentencing Act (which reduced the sentencing disparity between offenses for crack and powder cocaine from 100:1 to 18:1). Under the new law, these men and women can ask for sentence reductions.
According to Reuters, more than 1,100 inmates have been released under the First Step Act (with another 3,100 to be released due to separate provision that awards good conduct with time off). However, the Department of Justice is currently fighting petitions to release prisoners and even lock some who have been released back up. Federal prosecutors are arguing that the amount of drugs that these offenders handled was too big to qualify for a sentence reduction.
Reuters found that the DOJ has been largely unsuccessful in its quest to keep folks incarcerated. Prosecutors have opposed an inmate’s release in at least 81 cases. They argue that judges focus on the amount of drugs handled instead of the smaller amount spelled out in the law. The feds have lost 73 of the 81 cases. So far, prosecutors have appealed three of those decisions and plan on appealing 12 more.
Advocates of the First Step Act feel the DOJ is undermining the purpose of the law, which is to “provide for programs to help reduce the risk that prisoners will recidivate upon release from prison, and for other purposes.” Senator Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) who was one of the authors of the law said, “Many of these people have served in prison for five, 10, 15, 20 years and more. It’s time for them to be able to get on with their lives, and the notion the Department of Justice is just going to keep nagging at them and appealing these cases is not what we ever had in mind.”
Check out the official report below: