The Washington Examiner reported on May 17, 2019, that the bipartisan crime reform bill passed in December 2018 will face scrutiny this July. The law, called the First Step Act, requires that nearly 4,000 federal inmates be released in July based on their good behavior.

Initially, the First Step Act was due to release the inmates when the law was passed last December. Due to a drafting error, the release date was extended seven months, though 643 inmates with drug convictions have already been released.

About the “good time” credit

The “good time” credit rewards federal prisoners for their good behavior by reducing the length of their sentences by 15%. In other words, if a person is serving 5 years in prison (approximately 1826 days, accounting for one leap year), the good time credit would reduce his or her prison sentence by approximately 274 days.

Until the First Step Act went into the effect, the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) tended to cap the credit at 47 days. The new law made the full 15% mandatory.

Generally, the First Step Act and the revised good time credit have enjoyed bipartisan support. The problems arose when the new Act went into effect, and suddenly those 4,000 inmates were held in prison for an additional seven months.

Many of the inmates expecting to be released have been living in halfway homes. Advocacy groups and legislators are focusing on what remedies should be in place so that those inmates who are released don’t commit additional crimes.

Concerns for former convicts who have been released

A major concern is how the inmates will gain employment. Inmates who live in halfway homes often work part-time and pay rent (about 25% of their pay) to the halfway home. Many workers only earn minimum wage. For some, finding any work at all has been difficult.

Organizations such as the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and people such as Mark Holden, general counsel for Koch Industries, are working to persuade employers to hire former inmates. “Holden’s group has compiled a list of employers open to hiring former inmates.” Companies are being asked to take the following pledge:

“I pledge to give opportunities to qualified people with a criminal record, deserving of a second chance.” Some of the companies that have signed onto the pledge include:

  • Cascade Engineering
  • Gallery Furniture
  • Georgia-Pacific
  • Koch
  • Korman Communities
  • Molex
  • Nehemiah Manufacturing
  • Uber

President Trump’s son-in-law is encouraging companies such as Walmart to hire inmates. Some organizations are hoping that churches will help drive the move to help inmates obtain work.

At Delius & McKenzie, PLLC, our Sevierville criminal defense lawyers have more than 20 years of experience fighting for the accused. We understand how devastating a conviction can be to you and your family. Let us help. To make an appointment, call us at (865) 428-8780 or fill out our contact form. We represent defendants accused of crimes in Sevierville, Seymour, Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and the surrounding Tennessee areas.