When the U.S. government initiated efforts in 2018 to reduce recidivism in federal prisons, the aim was to end the cycle that makes many inmates repeat offenders. To achieve that goal, inmates would engage in recidivism-reduction programs to earn increased good-conduct time.
But the lofty objectives of the First Step Act, approved by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump, still have a long way to go to live up to their potential, says Christopher Zoukis, author of the Directory of Federal Prisons and managing director of Zoukis Consulting Group www.prisonerresource.com.
The act was a good first step, no pun intended, but where it fails is by excluding too many categories of inmates from various benefit provisions. Inmates within over 60 categories of offenses are ineligible to earn credit toward early release under the act. For example, certain immigration, violent, sex offense, and drug offenders are ineligible from receiving additional good conduct time for program participation.
If the objective is to reduce recidivism, then It makes no sense to bar sex offenders, violent offenders and other more grim crimes from this benefit. We should want to promote healing and improved decision-making among all offenders, not simply the lowest-level offenders.