The media has done a fairly good job of covering the FIRST STEP Act, but in case anyone was confused as to what it actually is, here is some information that can help you better understand the act. 

What does it stand for?

FIRST STEP stands for Formerly Incarcerated Reenter Society Transformed Safely Transitioning Every Person Act.

Why was it introduced?

Introduced by Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI). The FIRST STEP Act will ensure that individuals will leave prison prepared for a job and give incentives to inmates to pursue skill building classes during their time in prison.

What does the act aim to do?

FIRST STEP Act would:

  • Would fix the good time credits.

This act would make sure that inmates could earn up to 54 good time credit a year. This time would retroactively apply and it would save taxpayers $40 million the first year.

  • Ensure that inmates would be leaving the facilities with an ID.

This in imperative for individuals who are doing their reentry into society and need to apply for jobs, get healthcare, and do pretty much anything.

  • For every 30 days spent in a program, allowing 10 days of prerelease custody.

This is an incentive for those to go to these programs when currently they are either court mandated or something some opt out of because it brings no benefit. This way, inmates would be getting the help they need and getting rewarded for their work within the program.

  • The Bureau of Prisons would be required to transfer low and minimum risk prisoners to pre-release custody like a halfway house or home confinement.

Because it would be required, the contracting would be going up which would provide more opportunities and places for individuals who are being released.

  • The act would also give the Bureau of Prisons $250 million over 5 years to create and even expand programs within the prisons.

These programs would cover things such as mental health, job readiness, and vocational training.

  • During recovery, contact with family is imperative to give inmates that extra boost of support.

This act would move people closer to home so they can be housed within a reasonable distance of their family.

  • Change the way women are treated in prison

If you didn’t know, female inmates currently have to pay for their tampons and pads within prison but this bill would change that because they would be required to provide them at no cost. Also, women who are pregnant could not be shackled and that treatment should extend until at least 3 months after they give birth.

  • Expand compassionate release which says that at age 65, you can get some compassion shown on you towards your sentence and good time.

  • The bill requires that these needs must be met and if they are not, it is punishable.

  • It would even require that 15% of the money earned during an individual’s time in the prison must be saved until the time of their release which is when they would be given the money so they could afford to leave.

When is the First Step Act effective?

 The sentencing release reforms are effective immediately. Other facets of the bill are being phased in over the next three years.

Caroline C.
FFL Cabinet Member
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