The American Bar Association recently announced that, although the First Step Act has been critical in helping to overhaul our outdated criminal justice system, it hasn’t gone nearly far enough, nor has it yet been implemented completely.
The First Step Act was passed by the 115th Congress and signed into law by President Trump December 21, 2018. To date, there are 3,000 inmates who have benefited from the program, but that’s a small drop in the bucket compared to the number of inmates it was supposed to initially impact.
So what is the Justice Department running behind on?
Risk Assessment Tool Still Behind
One of the major provisions of the bill calls for a risk assessment tool to be developed by the Department of Justice in order to ascertain the likelihood of criminal behavior once a candidate leaves the correctional system.
This tool would assess compatibility with halfway houses, work programs, and a whole host of other options that will help to ensure that the transition back into the world is successful. However, due to some provisions of the bill being left open to interpretation, the process has been needlessly delayed, resulting in thousands of candidates not being helped.
This issue is an easy way to skew the results of this bill. There’s a lot of controversy over this issue and we are in desperate need of a fair and equitable solution.
The Justice Department has also been issuing guidance to prevent inmates who qualify from being treated differently than how those facing sentencing today do. Whereas fairness is important, it shouldn’t come at the expense of intelligent, research-backed solutions like are found in the First Step Act.
Those who have received benefit from the program have been through a thorough vetting process and have been deemed clear to leave prison. This outcome is really backward in terms of the goals and objectives of the bill and are likely to only make issues worse. This will only gum up the process and prevent deserving individuals from resuming their lives and building something of themselves.
As we move forward with criminal justice reform, we’re going to take a few steps back. But that doesn’t mean we have to be happy about it.
The truth is, this is about real people’s lives that are held in the balance. This is about how we can begin to regrow impoverished communities that skew heavily minority in their demographic composition. This is about how we want to be as a nation.
Those who are just cut and left to the wolves tend to return to the life they know. Simply punishing people for the sake of punishing them helps no one. How we treat this population who has paid its debt for its crimes also says a lot about us as people.
The United States still incarcerates more people per capita than anyone else. That’s a very unfortunate list to top.
And, unfortunately, many Americans are still on the fence about taking a rehabilitative approach to criminal justice as opposed to a punitive one. Thus, it comes down to the dinner table.
The Modern Dinner Table
It used to be that issues could be discussed at the family dinner table every night. But not all families are created equal. So what we’re going with is a more modern concept — when you go out with friends, go to church, or otherwise socially engage with others, look for opportunities to make a difference.
One of the toughest aspects of criminal justice reform is getting accurate information out to the public. This is where people just like you come into play.
You are an ambassador for criminal justice reform. We all need to be more proactive in supporting this essential cause. For one, it’s the fiscally responsible thing to do. Wasting money for a worse outcome has been our strategy for decades — and it’s destroying us. If we’re ever going to find justice in our society, we have to make sure that we’re spreading the word about what’s actually just. And the only way that will happen is person to person.
Furthermore, as with any cause, we need to keep the engine running. Getting the word out on our end does cost money. So, if you’re in with making sure that recidivism dies off like we are, please click here to contribute today!