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The First Step Act Falters When Real Systemic Justice Reform Needed (U.S.)

For Immediate Release: November 8, 2019 3pm Pacific Standard Time

The U.S. sitting president’s key signature legislation signed a year ago, the First Step Act, is being blocked by his own Department of Justice. After one year only 3000 largely drug offenders have been released because of the First Step Act. Federal prisons house only 13% of the total inmates serving time in U.S. prisons. Approximately 192,000 inmates serve time in federal prisons (2016 Sentencing Project).  Currently 1.4 million are incarcerated nationally in all U.S. prisons (2017 Sentencing Project). The First Step Act applies only to federally sentenced inmates.

Restorative Justice International (RJI) calls for real systemic justice reform that will overhaul our justice system nationally. To do that restorative justice principles must guide the needed reforms by putting the crime victim in the center of the system first and holding offenders accountable after crime. Since most inmates serving in federal prisons are serving time for drug offenses those inmates should be held accountable in communities through alternative sentencing options not in costly federal prisons. Drug offenders can be held accountable in ways that do not disregard the impact on crime victims and communities. When restorative justice processes and programs are used after crime offenders are more likely not to re-offend. Systemic justice reform based on victims-driven restorative justice must apply to the entire prison system in the U.S. and not merely federal prisons.

RJI calls on Congress and this administration to focus on real justice reform that addresses mass incarceration and reverses failed policies of the past. Certainly the current sitting president and his Department of Justice must be in agreement on criminal justice policies, and the implementation of signed legislation, and not be working at cross purposes.

Restorative Justice International is a leading association and network that works nationally and globally advocating for systemic justice reform based on victims-driven restorative justice.

From the Washington Post (November 7, 2019):

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