Many families are rejoicing after 3,100 former inmates were released from the Bureau of Prisons on Friday after the First Step Act went into full effect.
The inmates were released as part of the Justice Department’s effort to follow a criminal justice law passed by Congress last year. Many of them were facing drug-related charges and were living in halfway houses across the country in preparation for their release, acting BOP chief Hugh Hurwitz said at a Friday news conference, according to NPR.
However, about 900 inmates will not walk free and will be sent to detention by immigration and local authorities. The Department of Homeland Security will determine their fate, Hurwitz said.
Since Donald Trump signed the law last December, the Justice Department released an additional 250 inmates that were elderly or terminally ill into home confinement or compassionate-release programs, The Grio reports.
The First Step Act has created more advocacy for prisoners and their families, The New York Times reports. Government officials ensure the new law will be implemented at no risk to anyone.
“The department intends to implement this law fully and on time, with the goal of reducing crime, enhancing public safety and strengthening the rule of law,” Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen said.
In addition to the early releases, the law allows for prison authorities to identify inmates that may benefit from programming that gives them credits counted toward early release. Under this new program, inmates will be assessed every six months.
U.S. Senators Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said in a joint statement they would “vigilantly” look over the new assessment process and make sure there is no bias towards people of color.
“It’s critical that the assessment does not disproportionately designate minorities as having a higher risk of reoffending,” the senators said.
According to CNN, the efforts of the new law were praised by criminal justice advocates Friday.
“This is good news and we’re happy to see that it’s starting to be implemented but we think more needs to be done and we think Congress needs to provide that oversight,” said Inimai Chettiar, policy director of the Justice Action Network.