Currently before the United States Senate is a criminal justice reform bill that will drastically reduce the number of African Americans incarcerated in the United States. A bipartisan bill introduced by Senators Dick Durbin (IL) and Chuck Grassley (IA), the bill would extend the First Step Act of 2018 and provide relief to persons facing sentences for federal drug offenses or who were sentenced to lengthy sentences for crimes committed before they reached the age of 18. The bill has been introduced in the Senate, but must be passed by both the Senate and the House of Representatives before it can be presented to President Biden.
On December 21, 2018, the First Step Act of 2018 was signed into law. This Act lowered mandatory minimum sentences for drug traffickers with prior drug convictions, and made it so currently incarcerated offenders who received longer sentences for possession of crack cocaine than they would have if sentenced after the Fair Sentencing Act, can petition to have their sentences reduced.
A current proposal, the First Step Implementation Act, would build off of these reforms. The 2018 Act mostly excluded people who committed crimes before December, 2018, but this new law would extend its provisions to retroactive sentences. This includes people who were sentenced under enhanced mandatory minimum sentences because of prior drug convictions, or who received stacked mandatory minimum sentences for using a firearm during a violent or drug-related crimes.
In addition, the Implementation Act allows for reduced sentences to those who were convicted under the age of 18 if they have served at least 20 years and are not an immediate danger to anyone. It also gives judges greater leeway to issue sentences below the mandatory minimum, and requires the Attorney General’s office to periodically check the accuracy of criminal records used for employment.
Please join Brilliant Minds in supporting this bill, and help to reform a U.S. criminal justice system which has historically targeted poor communities of color.