From a man who was sentenced to life after stealing $150 worth of videotapes to an offender sentenced for shoplifting a jacket worth $159, new prison reform tries to overhaul the controversial “three strikes” law that led to people spending their life in prison for petty crimes.
President Trump on Wednesday announced his support for a bipartisan reform of federal sentencing guidelines, an ambitious effort to fix a punitive, decades-old justice system.
The First Step Act, which will still need to pass the Senate, will overhaul the country’s criminal justice sentencing for the first time in a generation and support rehabilitation efforts for federal prisoners and allow judges to exercise more discretion when sentencing nonviolent offenders, particularly for drug offenses
“We’re all better off when former inmates can receive and re-enter society as law-abiding, productive citizens,” Trump said. “And thanks to our booming economy, they now have a chance at more opportunities than they’ve ever had before.”
The bill is particularly welcomed for reforming the federal three strikes rule that mandates a life sentence for three or more convictions. Under the new legislation, the convictions would trigger a 25-year sentence instead.
The three strikes rule, introduced by then-President Bill Clinton, has long been criticized for exploding U.S. prison populations and the prison system costs while being an ineffective way to combat crime.
But the rule ruined the lives of people who were sentenced to life or given long sentences despite committing meager crimes, with their tragic stories showcasing the system’s human cost.