I recently testified in a sentencing and the prosecutor asked me if I was a “Lone Wolf”? Apparently he read one of my blogs looking for dirt and that’s about all he could come up with. I answered, “absolutely” when it comes to Criminal Justice form.
I perpetually hang my head in shame when I view the commentary, op eds and press releases on justice reform issues when it comes to the prison aspects! Enter: The First Step Act. It was comical watching an ex-police commissioner on TV the other night who is now a federal prion expert for doing a minute in a camp! When asked about the bill, the best thing he had is how it would reunite families! Are you kidding me? The bill does not accomplish this nor does it accomplish a majority of the “prison reforms” it claims to but I guess it makes people in the administration feel good!
Rather than writing a blog about the numerous shortcomings of the legislation, I’m just going to cut and past what I sent to hundreds of our incarcerated by way of Corrlinks and a newsletter shortly after I read the draft: (Note: I feel it’s a public service to keep the population informed because this hype usually has families and the incarcerated thinking release is imminent)
“ I had a chance to quickly go through the First Step Act draft that hit the net today. It’s the same old, disingenuous garbage as previous bill versions when it comes to the BOP sections/issues. The front end sentencing reforms are good and the same ones referred to in my last blog and/or email. ( 924 Stacking issue, broadening the safety valve, Fair Sentencing Act retro-activity, etc.) However;
First, anyone releasing in the next two years won’t be impacted if it was passed yesterday, when it comes to the BOP time credits provisions. Page 35 of the draft gives the BOP two years to determine the risk level of everyone incarcerated. (min/low/med high) They are needlessly re-inventing the wheel.
As far as the prison related issues:
BOP/AG has 180 days to come up with the new risk tool & evidenced based programs, and 180 more to implement, so one year is burned right out of the gate. Then the BOP has to assign a risk to everyone and as I said above, they have 2 years !
Anyone who completed programs prior to passage are NOT credited for the new good time credits. So after a year, when they identify risk and programs, people start earning the credits after each month they are in a “recidivism reduction program”. (10 days extra a month & 5 more for min/low risk)
The problem is all that does is get you an earlier RRC – provided there are beds! A joke. There are no beds. It also talks about direct Home Confinement which can be done since the 90’s. I guess the 75 million a year approved could go towards more beds but the contracting process takes a few years in itself. (enter- The Private Prison Lobby)- Don’t forget GEO et.al. have been entering this space which has literally no oversite and huge profit margins.
Not to mention, the time and satisfactory progress is awarded at the BOP’s discretion. Then there’s a laundry list of cases who can’t even earn the extra time, including non-citizens. I don’t even think this bill is constitutional and will negatively impact people of color disproportionately. It’s similar to the Chaffetz Bill way back which drew a lot of opposition by the Federal and Community Defenders organization.
Then there’s the language about transferring closer to home provided there are beds! Another joke- No infrastructure to accomplish this.
Then there’s the extra visiting at the warden’s discretion!
Of course there is an incentive to spend more money as they gouge you in the commissary!
Phone minutes go to 510 from 360 ! Big deal, I think not……..
A real funny issue is unlimited email! There is already unlimited email!
They also change the way the Good Conduct Time is calculated to 54 days for each year sentenced (vs served)but no mention to retro-activity? I have spoken to legal experts who say say this will be retroactive. (47 to 54 for each year of the sentence). A long overdue change!
They did change some compassionate release language and terminology and looks like they extended the SCA of 2007- Elderly Offender (pilot) time frame to 66 % and lowered the age 60. If I am reading it correctly, they may have removed the minimum 10 years to serve as well. These people don’t even understand the bop already incorporated some of the Elderly Offender provisions in the CR policy a few years back so now we have redundancy and some confusion because of the similarities. Who ever wrote this has a very limited understanding of BOP policy, process and culture
They also appear to have re-defined “Community Confinement” in a broader way to include rehabs, and other facilities. That’s good on the mitigation side if I’m reading that right.
I need to research a few other issues that references federal law but I doubt its anything significant.
Bottom Line: They could have accomplished much more, in much less time at less costs but private interests, politicians and lobbies don’t benefit from that! They do not deal with the fundamental core reform issues like accountability, transparency and leadership but that’s just inherent in the swamp I guess.
I’ll keep you posted…………” End of quote, End of email…………..