“To be fair, the First Step Act, Trump’s landmark criminal justice law, is commendable. More than 3,000 people have been released thanks to the law’s effort to take good behavior while incarcerated into account. And by retroactively applying the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, which reduced the sentencing disparity between crack and cocaine charges, over 2,000 people received sentencing reductions — 91 percent of them were African Americans, according to the Sentencing Project. 342 people have also been released into the elderly home confinement pilot program.
The problem, however, is that the Department of Justice has “attempted to block hundreds of eligible beneficiaries” and send those released back behind bars, according to the Sentencing Project.
It may not be too surprising considering that Attorney General William Barr had expressed his concerns about the First Step Act behind closed doors, according to the Washington Post. The publication found that Barr thought the early release could drive up crime numbers and put the administration in a bad light.
As a result, the department has tried to freeze applications or re-incarcerate former inmates by setting higher standards for their release.“
“beyond the disruption of the Justice Department, there’s a lot to be accomplished for the First Step Act to reach its full potential. Funding falls far short of the $75 million authorized by Congress. Many prisons lack both the space and money to hold vocational, educational, mental health, and substance abuse programming. And the government has yet to expand the Second Step Act, which promised to help break barriers in employment after release. Until all these issues are addressed, Trump’s criminal justice efforts — and the speeches he makes about them — remain lackluster.”