Trump Fights for Fair Prison Reform, Biden Fought For a Bill That Increased Penalties For Black Americans

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In Chicago, hundreds of prisoners are using a law that President Trump backed. In 2018, the President signed a bill entitled “The First Step Act (FSA). Under the provisions of the measure, prisoners convicted of federal crimes are getting their sentences shortened. 

Judges in Chicago have approved more than 60 percent of the early release requests they have ruled on.

They so far have granted sentence reductions in 75 of the 200 cases. Forty-five requests were denied. The rest are awaiting a ruling, the Chicago Suntimes reports. 

A  partial general overview of the act says it is an effort to improve criminal justice outcomes, as well as to reduce the size of the federal prison population while also creating mechanisms to maintain public safety and provide help for inmates and their families. A couple of matters explained in the overview include:

Changes to Mandatory Minimums for Certain Drug Offenders

The FSA makes changes to the penalties for some federal offenses. The FSA modifies mandatory minimum sentences for some drug traffickers with prior drug convictions by increasing the threshold for prior convictions that count toward triggering higher mandatory minimums for repeat offenders, reducing the 20-year mandatory minimum (applicable where the offender has one prior qualifying conviction) to a 15-year mandatory minimum, and reducing a life-in-prison mandatory minimum (applicable where the offender has two or more prior qualifying convictions) to a 25-year mandatory minimum.

Retroactivity of the Fair Sentencing Act

The FSA made the provisions of the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 (P.L. 111-220) retroactive so that currently incarcerated offenders who received longer sentences for possession of crack cocaine than they would have received if sentenced for possession of the same amount of powder cocaine before the enactment of the Fair Sentencing Act can submit a petition in federal court to have their sentences reduced.

Expanding the Safety Valve

The FSA also expands the safety valve provision, which allows courts to sentence low-level, nonviolent drug offenders with minor criminal histories to less than the required mandatory minimum for an offense.

In contrast, the Joe Biden/Backed Crime Bill served to dramatically increase prison sentences for minorities—particularly Black Americans. 

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