We Must Do More to Implement Criminal Justice Reforms for Released Prisoners
While the passage of the First Step Act was an important step forward in terms of addressing past injustices associated with mandatory minimum sentencing—especially when it comes to drug crimes—there is still much left to be done when it comes to criminal justice reforms. Below, we discuss some of the noteworthy new reforms and how they are working to help restore criminal justice, as well as what still needs to be done, at a minimum.
New Programs Already in Place
One of the recent programs that is in place and capturing new headlines is the compassionate release program, which allows inmates with serious illnesses to petition a federal judge to be released if their condition was reported to prison officials and nothing was done. If the judge finds that the petitioner as presented “extraordinary and compelling reasons” to justify a reduction in their sentence, they can be freed on compassionate release.
The Challenges Released Prisoners Still Face
When it comes to undoing years of an overly punitive and racially-biased system, our system needs to go farther than simply revisiting some prisoners’ unjust prison terms, and better address opportunities for reintegration back into society. Individuals released from unjustly spending decades in prison often struggle with homelessness and joblessness through no fault of their own, making it more likely that they will return to prison within three years of their release. This is going to require, at a minimum, an investment in employment, health, and housing services.
What Still Needs to Be Done, At A Minimum
As a result, in March, New Jersey Senator Cory Booker introduced the “Next Step Act” to expand some of these reforms. Yet, while the Next Step Act contains some important provisions for removing barriers to employment, there is still more to be done, such as bolstering:
- Education programs geared towards allowing seamless transitions into stable jobs;
- Housing assistance programs that facilitate reunification of those returning home and their families, including additional support and reform for housing and food assistance programs; and
- Incentives for localities and states to promote reintegration, such as ensuring that those who have done their time have their voting rights restored. The federal government can assist with this by providing funding and technical support to the states in these efforts.
Don’t Become a Victim, Contact Our New Jersey & New York Civil Rights Attorneys
If you are facing criminal charges, it is imperative that you work with a criminal justice and civil rights attorney who will ensure that you are protected, before, during, and after your trial. Contact our experienced criminal defense attorneys at the office of Phillip J. Murphy today for a free consultation and find out more about our services throughout New York and New Jersey.