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The First Step Act isn't the First Action Made for Unjust Sentencing

Posted by Sara Cooper | Oct 24, 2023 | 0 Comments

Mandatory minimum sentences aren't as clear and effective in the criminal justice system as people who have never been system impacted as they think. It promotes recidivism, and sentences tend to be extended or the lowest sentencing is more than predicted.

Such as the “three strikes law,” it exemplifies the harm that the “tough on crime” model regarding drug offenses.

Reform has been an active motion in California, including the First Step Act passed by Congress in 2018. This law has shifted drug laws and their punishments, making sentencing not a result that would be impossible to imagine and doesn't further harm Black and Brown communities as before.

The First Step Act isn't all glamour however, as the changes were not made for months and impacted those that were imprisoned and relied on the act.

Last November, another reform act was introduced that would assist those that were given outdated sentences, meaning the outside could be returned to much sooner. The U.S. Sentencing Commission, who is responsible for curating sentencing policy on the federal level, criminal defendants who are convicted can request judges to reduce their long sentences that aren't usual.

Passed in 1984 by Congress, “compassionate release” would allow judges to reduce a sentence when there is a compelling and extraordinary reason for a person to be released.

For the Sentencing Commission to do this, it's precedence that the criminal system can further improve the sentencing policy, and that the legal process isn't always right.

Despite the demands and hopeful promises that the new guidance of the Commission will improve, the future of compassionate release is not certain. “The Department of Justice has objected to the commission's recognition that legal changes resulting in an unjust sentence can qualify as an extraordinary and compelling reason justifying relief,” mentions USA TODAY.

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