President Trump signed the First Step Act right before Christmas 2018. The essence of the Act is to reduce sentences for thousands of prisoners. But, most inmates and loved ones don’t expect releases to come anytime soon.
This law states that each inmate gets seven days credit (days off their sentences) per year, for every year they demonstrated good behavior.
However, this requires that federal prisoner’s sentences be recalculated to determine how much time they have left.
Inmates and families are concerned that the implementation of the law may take forever. There has been silence from the Federal Bureau of Prisons ever since the passing of the First Step Act.
Examples of Inmates Who Anticipate Early Release
Veda Ajamu says her brother has his bags packed and is awaiting his release.
Robert Shipp had been served 25 years of a drug sentence. He is scheduled to be released in November 2019. But due to his good behavior, Shipp expects his release to be soon under Trump’s prison reform.
The First Step Act will do away with around 175 days of his sentence. He will then become eligible for home confinement or a halfway house. This is common at the end of sentences.
His sister is quite anxious about the situation. She wouldn’t want to be caught off-guard or miss his call when it is time to go pick him up.
The President of Families Against Mandatory Minimums, Kevin Ring, says that most prison families are expecting their loved ones home as soon as tomorrow. Yet, they are concerned about how soon the Trump’s prison reform will take effect.
Around 4,000 federal inmates are expected to leave federal correctional institutions in the 2019 prison releases according to advocates. A small percentage of them can petition the courts to reduce their crack cocaine sentences.
Steven Houston, who is serving a 30-year crack cocaine sentence, expects 210 days to be cut off his sentence according to the First Step Act.
His release date was set for August. But he could be among the 2019 prison release beneficiaries and be released in January.
Video: What All Does the First Step Act Cover?
The Senate advanced the First Step Act, a “bipartisan piece of legislation.” Its purpose is for criminal justice system.
Justin George, a criminal justice reporter for The Marshall Project, joins CBSN’s “Red & Blue” to discuss the First Step Act.
Check out the video on the First Step Act below.
When Will Trump’s First Step Act Let Federal Inmate Start Going Home?
Families are calling the Sentence Computation Center and the Bureau of Prisons’ Designations. These bodies both calculate inmate sentences. But, no one seems to have answers.
There are so many federal inmates, according to the First Step Act, that are expected to be home already. But the DSCC is not answering calls.
It is not clear the effect the ongoing partial government shutdown is having on releasing inmates under federal bill H.R. 562.
Requests for clarification have not been responded to by the spokespeople of the Bureau of Prisons. Their delay could be justified by lack of implementation guidance.
Wyn Hornbuckle, Justice Department Spokesman, says that they are at the moment reviewing the new Law to determine its implementation guidance for DOJ components and BOP.
He says that more than 80% of the department staff have been working a few hours after Trump signed the First Step Act. They have been working through the shutdown he says.
Many inmates want to be released, though others this uncertainty brings about practical problems for lessening planned halfway house stays. Without temporary stays at the end of prison sentences, some of the inmates have nowhere to go.
There are services like, American King Foundation that are available to help people that may lose transitional housing.
The transitional houses:
- Help the inmates remain grounded and not slip back to old habits
- The inmates get someone to talk to who understands what they are going through
Most inmates and families are excited about the First Step Act. All these uncertainties is what takes the excitement away.
Too bad they couldn’t start New Year 2019 with the great taste of freedom!