‘First Step Act’ signed into law by President Trump; what is it’s impact?

Updated: Jan. 2, 2019 at 4:36 PM EST
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CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - For the first time in 40 years, there is bipartisan criminal justice reform on the national level with the recently passed “First Step Act.”

President Donald Trump signed it into law. Many believe it was at the urging of his son-in-law Jared Kushner, whose father went to jail.

It is intended to reduce the risk of people going back to jail and allow a prisoner to earn credits towards getting out of jail sooner. It also ends solitary confinement for juveniles, prevents the shackling of pregnant women and increases money for reentry programs.

The new law lets judges look at the likelihood of someone going back to jail as a condition of gaining an early release.

Walter Madison is a defense attorney practicing law in Akron. He further explains the conditions under which a prisoner might gain his or her freedom.

“In fact, there are probably some people who are up to 54 days of credit per year that may be eligible, because they’ve been there for a long time, to come home immediately - time served or use those good time credits to incentivize it on the back end. If you do well, if you behave, if you take advantage of rehabilitative programs, then you may take your good time credits and apply it to early halfway house or home confinement on the back end of your sentence,” Madison said.

J. Bennett Guess is the Executive Director of the ACLU Ohio. He says this about the First Step Act:

“We were tying the hands of judges that they had to impose very long jail sentences and now they’re freed a bit to apply discretion, to consider not only if someone does not have a criminal record, but they can also now consider whether they have a limited criminal record.”

Guess also says there are other benefits to this criminal justice reform law.

“It ends basically solitary confinement for juveniles, prevents the shackling of pregnant women, increasing money for reentry programs,” Guess added.

The First Step Act also erases the 18-to-1 gap between sentencing for crack versus powder cocaine. Before 2010, the disparity impacted people of color; African-Americans and Hispanics the most.

You can see the whole interview with the ACLU’s J. Bennett Guess and Akron attorney Walter Madison along with CW 43 Focus host Harry Boomer on the Cleveland 19 News Roku and Amazon Fire apps and Sunday morning at 6:30 a.m. on CW 43.

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