For several decades the U.S.’s criminal “justice” system — at federal, state and local levels — was dominated by harsh, vindictive laws and policies. Politicians were elected on platforms promising to “lock them up and throw away the key.” Of course, those cruelties were especially biased against people who were already victimized by political and cultural systems. People of color, people with mental disabilities, people suffering from poverty and substance abuse were especially victimized. They were “collateral damage” in this “war on crime” and “war on drugs.”
Science has always refuted that cruelty. Bit by bit the reality has been noticed by the public, the media, and politicians. Even some noted conservatives (Newt Gingrich, for example) have recognized that harsh prison sentences do not work but instead waste taxpayers’ money.
Among the best respected sources of good research is The Sentencing Project (www.sentencingproject.org), which I have been financially supporting for many years. The ACLU and various organizations working for civil and racial justice have been doing good work too.
By overwhelming margins of victory, both the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate passed the FIRST STEP ACT in 2018. Trump signed it into law on December 21, 2018. In December the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP www.naacp.org) announced this information about the new law:
On December 18, 2018, the U.S. Senate passed, by a vote of 87 yeas to 12 nays, its version of the First Step Act, legislation which begins to reform our nation’s sentencing laws and prison terms. This bipartisan legislation, which has been strongly supported and promoted by the White House, offers some important improvements to the current federal criminal justice system, but it falls short of providing the meaningful change that is required to make the system genuinely fair. Much more work will be needed as we push for transformational change that will end mass incarceration and racial and ethnic minority disparities in prisons throughout America. The Senate bill, however, represents a major improvement over the original House-passed version, which consisted only of prison reform; it did not have any of the much-needed sentencing reform provisions which are necessary to make genuine changes to the American criminal justice system.
As important as that victory was, the FIRST STEP ACT has some problems, according to the Quaker-based peace & justice organization, the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC, www.afsc.org). See their information at this link: https://www.afsc.org/story/quaker-org-says-first-step-act-contains-missteps?utm_source=weekendreading122218&utm_medium=email