Congress Passed The First Step Act. What's The Second Step?
Reason magazine|April 2019

In the waning days of the 115th Congress, the first major criminal justice bill in eight years was passed.

C.J.Ciaramella

The FIRST STEP Act was both a modest achievement in terms of the bill’s scope and a monumental victory merely because Congress did something. But what does the legislation that President Donald Trump signed actually say?

• It requires the Bureau of Prisons to house inmates within 500 driving miles of their home when possible. Regular contact with family can be a significant factor in reducing recidivism among inmates, but families often have to travel long distances at great expense to see incarcerated loved ones.

• It increases the amount of “good time” credits inmates can earn toward their release by avoiding disciplinary infractions, to a maximum of 54 days a year.

• It increases the amount of “earned time” credit inmates can amass by participating in job training and rehabilitative programs. The credits count toward early release to a halfway house or home confinement.

• It bans the shackling of pregnant female inmates. The Bureau of Prisons amended its policies in 2008 to forbid the practice, but there was no federal law against it. It’s already illegal in most states, although incarcerated women still report being shackled while in labor, even where it’s supposedly outlawed.

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