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The FIRST STEP Act and Jacksonville, Florida Federal Criminal Defense

The FIRST STEP Act requires the Department of Justice (DOJ) to develop and apply a risk and needs assessment system to identify a prisoner’s risk and assign them to appropriate evidence-based programming. Prisoners can earn incentives for participating in the programming.

Prison reform initiatives have demonstrated success in state systems, and the FIRST STEP Act would enable the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to capitalize on similar resources at the federal level. The legislation would direct the BOP to conduct risk- and needs-assessments for every offender upon sentencing, and then to offer individualized, evidence-based recidivism reduction plans to all inmates, without exception. Programs could include vocational training, educational support, substance abuse treatment, mental health care, anger-management courses, faith-based initiatives or other resources proven to lower the chance that men and women reoffend.

The FIRST STEP Act would also prepare individuals to reenter their communities as responsible citizens by allowing them to serve the final days of their sentences in halfway houses or home confinement, which equips them with support structures as they transition out of custody. As inmates progress through rehabilitation plans tailored to their needs and approach the end of their sentences, the BOP would conduct risk- and needs-assessments more frequently in order to document when individuals have successfully reduced their risk of reoffending and to ensure that the most appropriate resources remain available to them during the reentry process.

Additional provisions of the bill would require that prisoners be placed in facilities located nearer their families, that female inmates have access to certain tampons and menstrual pads as needed, and that individuals leaving custody would receive identification documents that are often pre-requisites for employment. * Republican Policy Committee's Summary

FIRST STEP Act Broadening Safety Valve

One Section of the act which would have an immediate benefit to federal criminal practice is the changes to safety valve. Safety valve is a guideline mechanism which allows those with minimal criminal history to avoid the strict minimum mandatory sentences in particular drug crimes. The language in the FIRST STEP Act appears to increase the amount of defendants who would benefit from safety valve. 

The act allows a defendant to qualify when:

(1) the defendant does not have—

(A) more than 4 criminal history points, excluding any criminal history points resulting from a 1-point offense, as determined under the sentencing guidelines;

(B) a prior 3-point offense, as determined under the sentencing guidelines; and

(C) a prior 2-point violent offense, as determined under the sentencing guidelines;

(C) by adding at the end the following: ‘‘Information disclosed by a defendant under this sub section may not be used to enhance the sentence of the defendant unless the information relates to a violent offense.

 (2) by adding at the end the following: 


(1) IN GENERAL.—If subsection (f) does not apply to a defendant because the defendant does not meet the requirements described in subsection (f)(1)(relating to criminal history), the court may, upon prior notice to the Government, waive subsection (f)(1) if the court specifies in writing the specific reasons why reliable information indicates that excluding the defendant pursuant to subsection (f)(1) substantially overrepresents the seriousness of the defendant’s criminal history or the likelihood that the defendant will commit other crimes.

(2) PROHIBITION.—This subsection shall not apply to any defendant who has been convicted of a serious drug felony or a serious violent felony, as those terms are defined in section 102 of the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 802).

(h) DEFINITION OF VIOLENT OFFENSE.—As used in this section, the term ‘violent offense’ means a crime of violence, as defined in section 16, that is punishable by imprisonment.

(b) APPLICABILITY.—The amendments made by this section shall apply only to a conviction entered on or after the date of enactment of this Act. 


If You Have Questions About A Jacksonville, Florida Federal Criminal Case

Please contact Clifton Law Office, you can reach me at my contact page online or call me directly at 904-209-4883.

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