Rabiah Burks, 202-822-6700
FAMM Applauds Introduction of “North Carolina First Step Act”
RALEIGH, NC – Today FAMM praises Sen. Bob Steinburg (R-District 1), Sen. Warren Daniel (R-District 46), and Sen. Danny Earl Britt (R- District 13) for introducing the North Carolina First Step Act (SB 404). The bill would allow judges to depart from mandatory minimum sentences for drug trafficking offenses if the mandatory sentence would cause substantial injustice to the defendant and is not necessary to protect the public. Leaders of “continuing criminal enterprises” would be ineligible for relief from the mandatory minimum sentence. If passed, the bill’s reforms would be retroactive, allowing drug offenders already serving mandatory minimums to petition for resentencing in the courts.
“In North Carolina, people addicted to opioids and other drugs can end up in prison for decades, and judges can’t do anything about it. North Carolina isn’t safer when we fill prison cells with addicted, mentally ill, or low-level drug offenders,” said Molly Gill, vice president of policy for FAMM. “During this opioid crisis, judges need more options to give our friends, children, and neighbors the accountability that will help them step away from drugs for good.”
The bill has the support of Americans for Prosperity-North Carolina, Conservatives for Criminal Justice Reform, and Concerned Veterans of America.
In December 2018, the Task Force on Sentencing Reforms for Opioid Drug Convictions recommended that the legislature enact legislation to give courts more discretion to avoid using mandatory drug sentences and consider making those reforms retroactive.
The North Carolina First Step Act is similar to other “safety valve” sentencing reforms adopted in many states, including Georgia, Virginia, and North Dakota. In December 2018, President Donald Trump signed federal legislation that expanded a similar exception to mandatory minimum drug sentences in federal law. That bill, the First Step Act, passed Congress with overwhelming bipartisan support, and the President mentioned it as an achievement during his State of the Union address.
“States are getting rid of mandatory drug sentences and watching prison populations and crime rates decline. This bill is a good start for North Carolina, and we’re grateful for Sen. Steinburg, Sen. Daniel, and Sen. Britt’s leadership,” said Gill.
For nearly three decades, FAMM has united the voices of affected families, the formerly incarcerated, and a range of stakeholders and advocates to fight for a more fair and effective justice system. FAMM’s focus on ending a one-size-fits-all punishment structure has led to reforms to sentencing and prison policies in 6 states and is paving the way to programs that support rehabilitation for the 94% of all prisoners who will return to our neighborhoods one day.
FAMM is a national nonpartisan advocacy organization that promotes fair and effective criminal justice policies that safeguard taxpayer dollars and keep our communities safe. Founded in 1991, FAMM is helping transform America’s criminal justice system by uniting the voices of impacted families and individuals and elevating the issues all across the country.
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