Rabiah Burks, 202-822-6700
FAMM Urges Congress to Fix Good Time Mistake Made in the First Step Act
Drafting error causes delays in the implementation of Good Time provision of the bipartisan criminal justice reform bill
WASHINGTON – FAMM today called on Congress to correct a drafting error in the First Step Act, which has resulted in the delayed release of thousands of people from federal prison. The First Step Act increased the amount of good time credit federal prisoners could earn from 47 to 54 days per year. The provision was supposed to apply retroactively and to take effect immediately, but a drafting mistake has delayed implementation.
“Thousands of families believed the law would bring their incarcerated loved ones home immediately, but that hasn’t happened because of a drafting error,” FAMM President Kevin Ring said. “We know it was an honest mistake, but even honest mistakes must be corrected. Families should not have to suffer because Congress erred when drafting this reform.”
“We strongly supported the First Step Act and have been gratified to see so many excessively sentenced individuals return home to their families. But thousands more are waiting for modest, long overdue relief,” Ring said.
FAMM sent a memo in January notifying lawmakers about the good time credit problem. The good time credit reform was included in a section of the First Step Act that also dealt with the unrelated issue of earned time credits, a system of credits available to some federal prisoners that can be exchanged for increase time in pre-release custody. Only those who are assessed as low- or minimum-risk by a yet-to-be-created needs and risk assessment tool can redeem these earned time credits. The First Step Act delayed implementation of the earned time credits until the attorney general completes and releases the needs and risk assessment tool. The bill gives the attorney general 210 days to complete and release the tool. Unfortunately, the way the bill was written incidentally delayed the good time reform until the attorney general releases the needs and risk assessment tool, even though good time has nothing to do with risk assessment.
“It might be tempting for lawmakers just to wait, but we have serious concerns that the needs and risk assessment tool will not be completed on time and that families will be forced to wait even longer for relief,” Ring said. ”Families should not have to wait. Congress should act now.”
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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