A Look at the Recent Criminal Justice Reform Bill

A man wearing handcuffs in need of assistance from a criminal lawyer

The topic of criminal justice reform has been on the tongues, speeches, and shuffling on desks of many policymakers for many years. The effort carries bipartisan support and heavily supported from those on the left, libertarians and others on the right. The issue is incredibly complex as it encompasses a large variety of factors and realities that are not often taken account when discussed the issue in a one dimensional way. Nevertheless, important headway was made in the eyes of many supporters in 2018 when Trump signed his first major legislative bill. Let’s look a little closer at what this might mean.

The solar plexus of criminal justice reform is trying to solve what is often referred to as the problem of ‘mass incarceration.’ This term has many implications and largely refers to the policies that have been around for decades that dictate mandatory minimums for certain—at times nonviolent—drug offenses.  Many would argue that these policies are inherently racially based and disproportionately affect minorities.

President Trump’s Bill

The recent bill was passed by the House with 358-36 vote and passed in the Senate with 87-12. The First Step Act would give federal judges more discretion and wiggle room when sentencing non-violent drug offenders and encourage prisoner rehabilitation efforts. Proponents of the bill would argue that America’s system today doesn’t do enough to encourage rehabilitation and integration back into society for those that serve long sentences for non-violent drug offenses and this, ultimately, leads to high recidivism rate. Another provision in the bill would offer federal prisoners sentenced for crack cocaine offenses before August 2010 the opportunity to request a reduced penalty.

At the same time, the bill incentivizes prisoners to participate in programs designed to better help them integrate and rehabilitate into the civilian world. It allows them to collect time credits for good behavior and for participating in certain activities.

Critics of the Bill

Though the bill was supported by politicians on both sides of the isle, there were some criticisms and opposition to the bill. Conservatives observed that in close look at the bill, there might be issues with some of the early release propositions and that it might put the general public in danger. Critics highlighted the provisions that would retroactively allow between 4, 000 to 6,000 current prisoners to immediately qualify for supervised released programs. It also might put a lot of discretion about future behavior in the hands of prison officials and judges and this causes a lot of uncertainty as to possible corruption. Similarly, opponents argue that there are dozens of serious violent crimes, including sex-related offenses, that are missing from the bill’s exclusion list.

Law is Complicated, Trust the Experts

There is still much to be seen about how the law will function and the effects it will have. If you’ve been charged with a crime, whether it is a minor offense or a felony, it is important to get legal counsel to lead you through the convoluted process of our criminal justice system. Getting arrested or accused can turn your world upside down and it’s best to get someone who knows the ins and outs. Call the Huerta Law Firm for sound advice on your charge.