On May 24, 2018, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 5682, the FIRST STEP Act. The intent of this legislation is to bring some humanity to the way in which many federal prisoners are treated, and to alleviate prison overcrowding by potentially allowing some prisoners who have completed rehabilitation and established themselves as no longer being a threat to society to be released from jail.
While the NAACP genuinely appreciates some of the provisions in this legislation – including the prohibition on shackling pregnant women and mandating that prisoners be housed no more than 500 miles from their family – this bill should not be mistaken for what we desperately need in our nation to alleviate our problems associated with over-incarceration and the stark disproportionality of racial and ethnic minorities who are in prison or jail today. We need to reform our sentencing and incarceration structure; we need to reevaluate who goes to jail, for what reason, and for how long. It is a difference between who goes to prison and how long they are incarcerated and reforming how they are treated when they are there. H.R. 5682, the FIRST STEP Act addresses prison reform but does not address sentencing reform at all
For more information on the problem as well as how you can work for a solution, please see the attached Action Alert.
Hilary O. Shelton, NAACP Washington Bureau.