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Issues with First Step Act Leaves Thousands of Qualified Inmates Sitting in Prisons

 Posted on August 16,2022 in Criminal Defense

Knoxville criminal defense attorneyIn 2018, the federal government passed the First Step Act into law. Under the law, eligible inmates would be able to obtain an early release if they were deemed a low or minimum risk of reoffending. The goal of the law was to reduce recidivism rates, address racial disparities (particularly with drug offenses), and ease the federal prison population. But four years later, the law seems to be stalled as thousands of prisoners who should have been released are still locked up.

The First Step Act

In addition to the early release provision, there were a number of other changes included in the First Step Act:

  • Allowed more flexibility for courts when facing mandatory minimum offenses
  • Allowed inmates to be placed in facilities as close to their homes (within 500 miles) to their homes when possible
  • Increased education and job training programs
  • Provided more options for home confinement and halfway house program options
  • Expanded rights for female prisoners

It has been the early release provision that has been the most difficult to implement. Under the law, the prison bureau uses a risk assessment tool to determine an inmate's risk of reoffending. They must have a low risk and must not have been convicted for sex offenses, human trafficking, terrorism, or other violent crimes. An inmate who meets that standard must also be eligible for home confinement, a halfway house, or another type of pre-release custody.

In order to obtain earned time credit for early release, the inmate must have successfully completed certain assignments and programs stipulated by the Board of Prisons (BOP). Once the inmate has built enough credits that equal the time left on their sentence, they can then be transferred to pre-release custody.

How Many Have Been Released?

Inmates finally began being released on January 13 of this year. More than 3,000 inmates who were on home confinement and more than 4,000 who were in residential reentry centers were released within that first week. However, there have been hardly any other releases since January 19.

The BOP puts the blame on poor training and staffing shortages as the main reasons why the law is not being followed. Advocates say there are thousands of inmates who are not getting their earned credits applied correctly, leaving them sitting in prison when they legally qualify for early release under the law.

Contact a Knox County Defense Lawyer

If you have been charged with a crime, we want to do all we can to help you avoid a conviction and possible prison sentence. Call Jeffrey Coller, Knoxville Criminal Defense Attorney at 865-281-1000 to schedule a free consultation with a skilled Knoxville, TX criminal attorney and find out what type of defense you may have against these charges.



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