Trump-Era Policy Sparks Significant Prison Releases

The First Step initiative signed into law by former President Donald Trump is causing a significant wave of convicted criminals to be released from prison.

The U.S. Sentencing Commission, led by Obama-appointed U.S. District Judge Carlton W. Reeves utilized the provisions of the First Step Act to make it easier to release a number of criminals with multiple convictions.

This includes gang leaders and those arrested on drug charges.

One Chicago Sun-Times survey found that among 200 instances of early release applications in the city, almost two-thirds were given reductions in their sentences, “including some of the nation’s most notorious criminals.”

Inmates who had their sentences reduced include five serving life sentences. One former Chicago gang leader has an upcoming hearing under the program. One of his former prosecutors called him “the unquestioned leader of a gang that was responsible for a murder rate” that was “over double the unacceptable murder rate we have today.”

The Formerly Incarcerated Reenter Society Transformed Safely Transitioning Every Person, or First Step, Act was signed into law by Trump in 2018.

It enjoyed significant support from both parties. The bill received significant support from Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), as well as Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL).

However, the bill was opposed by a number of conservatives, with a dozen Republican senators voting against the bill. No Democrats in Congress voted against the bill.

The bill intended to reduce recidivism through several means, including by offering prison programs for inmates. Furthermore, the act reformed a number of federal prison sentences, including a legal redefinition of drug felony convictions.

The White House lauded the effort, stating that President Trump’s actions through “commonsense criminal justice reform” would help prisoners “gain a new lease on life and is making America safer.”

The White House cited more than 700 prison sentence reductions and more than $300 million in funding for programs to reduce the chance of repeat offenses.

At the time, the president said that the effort was crucial, calling it a “truly momentous milestone.”

Trump added that the initiative, “allows for a second step and a third step.”

In his 2009 State of the Union address, President Trump said that he was “eager” to sign the bill into law. He said that the act “gives nonviolent offenders the chance to reenter society as productive, law-abiding citizens.”

He added that “America is a nation that believes in redemption.”

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